connections member news

August 2014
Vol. 13, Number 6

QRCA Management News
Conference News
Chapter News
Committee News
SIG News
Member News

Welcome New Members!

Please welcome QRCA’s newest members. Feel free to email new members directly and help them transition to our association. See someone from your home state? Consider reaching out to say “welcome” – one click and one minute of your time brings unmeasurable value to a new member.

Melanie Bernstein

Bam! Pow! Insights
3603 38th Street NW, Apt 201
Washington DC 20016
United States

Suzan Coulter

Insights IQ
8530 W. 128th St.
Overland Park, AL 66213
United States

Bonnie Dibling

Think Piece Qualitative Support Services, LLC
1116 North Ave
Batavia, IL 60510-4107
United States

Lisa Fuchs

KL Communications, Inc.
50 English Plaza, Ste 6B
Red Bank, NJ 07701
United States

Carl Geraghty

ORC International
Tai Yip Building
Hong Kong, Wanchai
Hong Kong

Wyndy Greene Smelser

WGS Consulting LLC
96 Kestrel Ct NW
Kennesaw, GA 30144-5327
United States

Kristen Gupta-Turnbull

Investigadora Insights
4248 Chowen Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422-1544
United States

Marilyn Hudson

Insights IQ
P.O. Box 26151
Overland Park, KS 66225
United States

Andrea Greca Krueger


Misha Mathew

Vox Populi Research Pvt. Ltd.
H 35/15, DLF Phase I
Gurgaon 122002

Nicole Newton

Thomson Reuters
610 Opperman Drive, D6-S1230
Eagan, MN 55105
United States

Meagan Peters

Solution Partners Consulting
3660 North Lake Shore Drive
Apartment 3501
Chicago, IL 60613
United States

Haley Rice

KL Communications, Inc.
50 English Plaza, Suite 6B
Red Bank, NJ 07701
United States

Grace Rickman

Marketry, Inc.
1630 29th Court South
Birmingham, AL 35209
United States

Mary Sayer

New Perspectives
4605 Bethel Creek Drive
Vero Beach, FL 32963
United States

Peter Switzer

ClearSight Qualitative Research LLC
900 N Kingsbury St, Apt 824
Chicago, IL 60610-7438
United States

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QuickTips: How to Really Take Time Off

J. Robert Harris,
Pat Sabena,

Editor’s Note: QuickTips is a monthly column for Connections, providing members with quick and easy (and cheap or free) ways of doing our work and living our lives. Give us your favorite shortcuts, high- to no-tech!  Please e-mail

This month’s QuickTips is a double-header. It’s hard for many QRCs to block off time for a real vacation, not just a long weekend or, even worse, a week away where you spend hours working. Projects always seem to be gearing up or finishing up, or we’re working on getting new projects. Two vets give us some pointers on how they have managed to clear their calendars to get away for extended periods of time.

JR Harris: Gone Fishin’!

I have been in business since 1975, and every year since then I have taken a vacation of at least three consecutive weeks. This is how I do it:

  • At least once a year I give personal time a higher priority than client time. I convince myself that I deserve a vacation, that I have earned one. I decide how long I want to go and commit to going.
  • I inform my clients of my plans, and agree to work very hard to finish a project before I leave, and/or promise to begin working on one as soon as I return.
  • Once my vacation dates are set, I never change them for any client or any project.
  • When I am away, I never check, much less respond to, any business-related voice, text, or e-mail messages. Clients have to wait until I get back home.
  • While I’m gone, I cherish my vacation time. I relax and enjoy it, and I never feel guilty about being away from my desk.

I’ve been told that this approach is suicidal for a small-business owner, but I’m still around after 39 years. I believe it is suicidal to not get away from the rat race. It may seem surprising, but I don’t lose much business while I am gone. My regular clients have always been very accommodating; they try to time their projects around my vacation plans, which I appreciate. If I happen to lose a project while I am away, so be it. It’s a small price to pay because I come back very relaxed, recharged, refocused, and ready to hit the ground running. While all this may seem a bit extreme, I can assure you that it works great! I’ve never come close to burning out. My advice to colleagues is that at least once a year, you should be selfish. Give yourself a break, and love yourself (and your family) more than your work.

Pat Sabena: Martyrs Don’t Make Good Mothers (or Moderators)

When my oldest daughter was born in late April 1975, I obviously took that summer as maternity leave. Clients welcomed me back in September saying they had missed me, and I saw no attrition in my client base. As a home-based business it became my policy to take July and August off ever since, so I wasn’t trying to balance my children’s summer with my work.

My husband suffered a heart attack right after our twin girls were born. I became a single mother of four young children by 1980, and hired a lovely, mature live-in nanny/housekeeper for stability. To retain my sanity, I took a two-week exotic vacation alone every year (e.g., Kenya, Turkey) or with a friend (e.g., Egypt, Galapagos, Carnival in Rio, Senegal, Morocco). This escape—and the kids—saved me.

Since travel is my passion, scheduling big long vacations and not backing out, no matter what, is my personal and inviolate way to recharge my batteries and strengthen my second marriage. Whether it involves sightseeing or relaxing in Cabo San Lucas, my Kindle is full of books to read, and my Kindle Fire has plenty to keep me occupied on long flights.

It’s true that you always pay before you play, so clearing the deck of work beforehand is a matter of highly motivated discipline and organization. Packing is second nature, but I don’t leave that to the last minute either.

In response to a business request for the weeks of an already scheduled international trip, I don’t say that I’m heading to India or Indonesia on a lark. Instead, I say, “Gee, I’ve just accepted a large project for that time period. I can do it after [date], and I could be recruiting your project while I’m on the road.” Often that works but, if not, so be it. I only have one life.

I carry my laptop wherever I go (but don’t check my phone). Often the time difference allows me to check e-mail once a day to make sure I don’t miss out on future project requests. Frankly, I also get lonely for news from my kids and their kids anyway, and checking email once a day keeps me in touch.

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Personal Connections

Michelle Finzel,

Spring Is for Weddings

The lovely bride, Holly O’Neill.

Underneath a beautiful, spring sky, with a warm breeze blowing, Holly O'Neill (Newport Beach, CA) married Douglas Grindstaff in Laguna Beach, CA, on May 16, 2014! The ceremony was conducted outdoors on an altar with cherub statues, a waterfall and a plethora of flowers. The reception took place in a beautiful white tent adorned with twinkle lights. The couple honeymooned in Europe.

Congratulations to the happy couple!

Holly with her new husband, Douglass Grindstaff.

Jim Bryson Makes a Difference in Haiti

Jim Bryson,

My Haitian odyssey has been filled with love, frustration, joy, uncertainty, adventure, patience, beauty, exhaustion, new friendships and personal growth. It has been one of the most difficult and best journeys of my life. 

It started when I first arrived four months after the devastating earthquake in January, 2010. The capitol city of Port-au-Prince was filled with rubble. Many of the streets were impassable. I arrived to help with the orphan crisis, since experts estimated that 100,000 children were orphaned because of the earthquake. I left with a vision to invest in a long-term initiative to help today's most vulnerable children become tomorrow's leaders. Thus, The Joseph School was born.

The Joseph School's mission is to provide a top-tier education paired with intentional leadership training to give orphaned children an educational opportunity they could never have. One day, these Haitian children will be equipped to lead their families, their communities, and their nation from a Haitian perspective independent of the world and its aid organizations. We believe leadership changes everything. We are investing in these potential leaders and investing in the future.

Now, I spend several weeks a year in Haiti. I have become very close to my friends and partners there. We plan to open The Joseph School in September, 2015.

Long-time QRCA member Jim Bryson is bringing smiles to Haiti children.

In June, 20|20 sent some of our employees to Haiti to work in an orphanage and visit the site for The Joseph School. These pictures are from that trip.

20|20 staff making new friends while visiting the site for The Joseph School.

Haiti remains the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Though it is poor economically, it is rich in so many ways. It is a wonderful country with tremendous challenges, which can all be overcome with Haitian leadership and vision. I simply want to have a small part in laying that foundation. It’s challenging; it’s an adventure; it’s meaningful. What’s not to like?

Group photo of 20|20 staff and Haitian children.


Mark Lovell’s Letter from Montreal

Mark Lovell (Lovell Group, Montreal, QC) had an op-ed article published in Market Leader, Quarter 3, 2014. WARC subscribers, click for the article link: Or, download the PDF.

The article, “Doing business in Quebec requires sensitive touch,” provides background on recent elections in the province. Mark then provides evidence that the economy in Quebec – and particularly in Montreal – is ready for investment. He also offers advice on language use to companies that may be interested in advertising in Quebec, noting that in Quebec, French should "appear either alone or together with English in outdoor media or printed material distributed to all or most households….With French in larger type and in a more prominent position when both languages are used together….With no information (fine print or elsewhere) available in English only."


Brava! Barbara Gassaway

Barbara being honored by Baltimore SmartCEO Magazine

Congratulations to Barbara Gassaway, Chair of the DC Metro Chapter and President of The Research Group, for being a 2014 Brava! Award winner. The Brava! Awards celebrate the distinguished achievements of 30 of Greater Baltimore’s top women business leaders. Brava! Award winners are exemplary leaders of both their companies and their communities. They encourage local philanthropy, mentor up-and-coming leaders, and set their companies on the path to tremendous growth. Each year, an independent committee of local business leaders selects winners based on the quality of applications submitted.

This year’s winners are profiled in the July/August issue of SmartCEO Magazine and were celebrated at an awards ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore.


QRCA Members Connect at CPSI

Kathy Jacobs-Houk,

It’s 9:30 at night, and where else would QRCs gather except around a flipchart?

Left to right on front row: Jennifer Larsen, Cynthia Tello, Missy Carvin, Marty Johnson, Jenifer Hartt. Left to right on top row: Kathy Jacobs-Houk, Alison Murphy, Janina Kuhagen, Ilka Kuhagen, Susan Abbott.

In June I attended the CPSI Annual Conference for the fourth year in a row. The learning and connections continue to get deeper and more meaningful each year. A few of us QRCA members decided to put on a Night Flight, a presentation coordinated by individual attendees, held at the end of scheduled workshops. The purpose of our Night Flight was to show the similarities and differences between moderating and facilitating as we shared our favorite creativity tools and techniques.  Nearly 20 people attended — including some from the client-side who want to become moderators. Lots of sticky notes were used that evening. Thanks to all who attended!!

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Anne Bakstad

New Member Interview: Anne Bakstad, San Francisco

Mike Courtney,

I'm guessing you were born young. What is your earliest memory? Any childhood nicknames we should be aware of?

I was born in Norway, but my parents immigrated to the U.S. when I was only a year old. They bee-lined to Los Angeles, even though my dad had some good job offers in other parts of the country. As he said, “Why would I leave all that snow for more snow?” So my early childhood memories are going to the beach on Christmas Day and taking lots of pictures in the sand to send to the relatives back home. Luckily the relatives did not hold that against him. We have a great relationship with all the family in Norway and I visit as often as I can. No exciting nicknames, although I decided I needed one in 3rd grade and tried to get people to call me Watermelon. It never stuck though. Over the years a lot of friends have called me Annie Bananie, so at least I stayed in the fruit family. 

Who were you and what did you do before you got into marketing research?

I spent 15 years working in customer support, operations, and IT management roles at telecom and technology companies. My favorite stint during that time was managing a global team providing implementation services and support to customers buying IT infrastructure, a very demanding B2B environment. I rarely came across a market researcher during those years, except for when product management or another team in the company would pull us in to observe focus groups. But it was really the M&Ms that pulled us in.

What drew you to qualitative research? Did you stumble into the field or was it your childhood dream to moderate?

I definitely stumbled in. The company I work for provides other services besides market research, and initially I was brought in because of my experience launching new products and services and setting up the infrastructure to do so. When I first joined, research was a critical, yet smaller, piece of our business, but now it is the majority of what we do. All of my colleagues come from the client-side, and we have had to make similar business decisions to those our clients make, so we make sure we approach the research knowing what our clients will do with the information and then tailoring it to get them the insights they need. 

Please tell us about your company, what brought you to this company, and your role within the organization?

For the past 10 years I have worked for Clearworks, a customer insights and innovation company based in San Francisco. I really enjoy my colleagues, and that is a big part of what brought me in! We have a fair amount of international work, and we always work in teams, so when you are spending all waking hours together in planes, hotels, restaurants, and the office, it makes all the difference to have a great travel partner that you can talk and laugh with! We all have similar roles in that each of us manage and moderate research projects, and we all work on the non-research projects as well. 

Is there a story behind your company name?

A few years ago we went through a rebranding exercise, when we were changing our name from Phase Forward. We decided to follow the same process we use with our clients. We talked to our customers to find out what they think of us, what they think we stand for, what we offer, etc. We wanted our new name and identity to reflect what our clients want and expect from us. Then we went through a series of branding and naming exercises. We developed naming criteria and a long list of words we liked. We had weeks of back and forth on names until a clear winner emerged: Clearworks. Our tagline is: “Customers. Connections. Clarity.” It was a fun, but challenging process! If we had to do it again we would probably hire someone like us to help, to get that objective outside perspective. But now we have eaten our own dog food, as they say!

What role does research play in the other marketing and social media services your company offers? (Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?)

Customer insights and research is central to what we do. Most of our engagements include some sort of research component. How can you develop a messaging and positioning framework for a new product if you haven’t talked to the potential customers? How do you help implement your new great idea if we don’t first know that people really want it? But now I am preaching to the choir. . .   

What motivated you to join the QRCA and what do you hope to gain from your membership?

I first learned about the organization from Janet Standen, who is one of the Co-Chairs of the San Francisco Chapter. I attended my first meeting and was sold!  What a great group of people — and I learned a ton from the guest speaker that day. It seemed like the group to join in the quest to keep current on qualitative research trends, especially as we have continued to expand our capabilities to meet our clients’ needs. 

What do your family and friends think about your career? Do you find yourself moderating the family dinner discussion? What would your family be like in a focus group?

They like hearing about the wide variety of research projects I work on, from art museums to internet security. And yes, I do tend to moderate the discussion, although with kids it is more often a peace-keeping mission. 

What books are you reading right now?  (Real printed paper book or e-books?)

I just got a Kindle Paperwhite, which I love. I’m reading Flash Boys by Michael Lewis, and I recommend it!

Mac or PC? iPhone or Android?   

PC and Android, much to the chagrin of my Mac-, iPad-, and iPhone-addicted kids. 

A client tells you they'll triple your project fee if you can beat them fair and square in a game. You get to choose the game. What game do you play and how likely are you to win?

This is a tough one. Although we use a lot of games in our innovation workshops and research, none lend themselves to a win-lose outcome. And I am not a big game-player in general, except when I play low-stakes poker with my mom friends.  Maybe Blackjack? Quick, easy, and usually more about luck than anything else.

Anne with her colleague Karie during a December 2013 trip to Beijing. Just enough time between customer interviews to visit the Great Wall!

Anne and her kids in Venice during a June 2014 trip to Italy, France and Norway. The kids think most office jobs sound boring, but they do get curious about some aspects of qualitative research, like ethnographies. “Really, you go into strangers’ houses with a video camera?”

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QRCA Members Dominate Survey Magazine List of Top Moderators

Laurie Pumper,

QRCA member Merrill Shugoll (Bethesda, MD) was named 2014 Moderator of the Year in Survey Magazine’s June issue.

Of the 12 Top Moderators identified, two-thirds are QRCA members. Also named in the list were:

  • Susan Abbott (Toronto)
  • Susan Adelman (Buffalo, NY)
  • Gary Frieden (Sherman Oaks, CA)
  • Lisa Fuchs (Red Bank, NJ)
  • Rob Iles (Tampa, FL)
  • Kendall Nash (Cincinnati, OH)
  • Jayce Treible (Fremont, CA)

Congratulations to all!

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QRCA Members Get Published!

Editor’s Note: QRCA has established many content partnerships that provide a platform for sharing the knowledge and expertise of our talented members, and QRCA members often contribute articles to industry publications. Each month, Connections would like to recognize those who have recently been published and share their articles with all members. Information provided by Laurie Pumper,

Recently published member articles:

AMA Marketing Insights E-Newsletter: Working Hand in Hand: Qualitative MR and Social Media Research
Mary Aviles and Sandra Bauman describe how social media research with a qualitative focus can provide excellent directional information, stating that social media research can be a highly effective supplement (and perhaps eventually an alternative option) to some more established marketing research methodologies.

AMA Marketing Insights E-Newsletter: The Changing Landscape of Qualitative Research
Mark Sumpter, founder of Consumer Link Moderating & Research Consulting, Inc. and the current vice president of QRCA, knows that qualitative research is a pillar in the industry. But over the years, the behavior-focused arm of marketing research has undergone a permutation of sorts. Marketing Insights caught up with Mark to learn more about the changes in the field, the current state of the focus group, and his upcoming industry predictions.

GreenBook: Cherry Garcia and New Qual Methods
Monica Zinchiak, a member of the Board of Directors, explains that just as Ben & Jerry’s changed the ice cream industry, so too have new methodologies changed the qualitative market research industry. Monica says that approaches like bulletin boards, mini-communities, and mobile technology have roots in a solid recipe of skilled moderators asking the right questions in a way that welcomes respondents to be candid, but can add extra rich, gooey, flavorful insights.

GreenBook: Taking a Strategic Approach to Qualitative Creative Development Research
Fiona Ray discusses some basic principles to get more out of qualitative creative development research. The first key she identifies is for the QRC to work with the brand or marketing team as a collaborative partner; this requires the QRC to become grounded in the brand, its objectives, and, in particular, the specific role of the creative idea under development.

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Kudos Corner

Editor’s Note: The Kudos Corner appears occasionally in Connections – whenever members want to publicly salute others who do good things for the organization. If there’s somebody in QRCA that YOU would like to commend for any contribution (large or small) to QRCA, please let us know at All submissions will go to the Editor-in-Chief of Connections and will be published anonymously.

This month’s Kudos...

A big thank you to the volunteers on three different teams within QRCA who have been working hard to meet recent Board requests:   

Frankie Johnson, Dorrie Paynter, Kris Hodges, Ricardo Lopez, Tim Lynch: active TechCom members who have volunteered their time over the last several weeks to interview multiple QRCA members about the content and navigation of Thanks to these members for conducting the website usability interviews and to all those who participated! The team is currently analyzing the findings and will make a recommendation to the Board soon.

Kris Hodges, Mary Aviles, Barbara Hairston, Julie Medalis, Liz Van Patten: active Social Media Research SIG members who are volunteering their time to conduct social media listening, text analytics, and text visualization to help identify the most desired content by QRCs. Trying a variety of tools and methods in the process, this team is helping the newly formed Content Evaluation Task Force to accomplish their objective...

Jennifer Dale, Caryn Goldsmith, and Jennifer Berkley Jackson responded to the Board’s request to specifically evaluate content on and recommend improvements to the content and its management.

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