WILLIAM (BILL) CURRAN KNEW HE WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL STARTING A RESEARCH COMPANY.
Part of a team of highly skilled researchers, Bill found his niche in financial operations.
Heather McGeachy: Why did you start Cognito?
William Curran: It started out semi-formal. Loosely affiliated talented people, so we decided to fomalize it, brand it. It just made sense. I knew we could be successful based on the people we were working with and the talent. We were all winners and when we put our heads together we could do something special. We all got a long and all complemented each other.
HM: What is it about owning a small company that is appealing?
WC: I’ve never worked for a really large company. I enjoy the freedom and flexibility. I had clients and still do, for very large companies. I can’t picture myself working for a large company. It’s the personal relationships that I enjoy in smaller companies.
HM: What is Cognito’s most impactful project to date?
WC: The ones that we do with new clients, because I like to earn their business. We make clients look good! We have some really great success stories, but we are always behind the scenes, making things happen for our clients.
HM: What is Cognito’s biggest challenge today?
WC: Growth. We need to be very careful and do it smartly. When you add one employee, you increase your payroll significantly, especially when you have the level of people we have. We have to manage our growth and be careful not to over-extend. But we have to be careful with NOT growing. Our growth has to be in conjunction with increased sales — we are on the right path.
We don’t just report what we heard or saw, but what it means to our client’s business.
HM: What does Cognito do especially well — what’s their superpower?
WC: Our superpower is we are very hands on, and nimble. We always will be somewhat small because we like to do the work, and we like to do the work well. When we go into a sales meeting, you will be working with the person that you see. We don’t have a big hierarchy, we put the best people on the project. Clients really appreciate that! We get to know our clients and get to know their business. We will do everything in our power to get answers to their questions. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for this….our analysis and reports, we don’t report only what we heard or saw, but what it means.
HM: What do you wish people knew about Cognito?
WC: I think they should know we can pretty much do anything. Some might have a perception of us as being to small, with only a few moderators on staff. We have to educate current and future clients that we can pretty much do anything and do it well. We have incredible partners over seas to accomplish deep international insights. We are re-branding ourselves and we have a lot of capabilities now.
HM: How has research changed over time?
WC: From a qualitative stand point, focus groups were pretty much the go to for many years, and they were over used. They are efficient, but they don’t always answer big questions in the best way. More authenticity can be uncovered with in-depth interviews and going into homes or on-site with observational, contextual inquiries. Quantitatively, there has been a melding of quant/qual hybrids. It depends on client need, but a lot of times you need qual to develop a quant study. Being creative in methodologies in quant is starting to happen. Sometimes you do qual so much it becomes quantitative. Sometimes we can get metrics from qual. I think research has evolved to get into the mind of customers a bit more.
HM: What will Cognito look like in 5 years?
WC: I see us being double in size and doubling our client base. Branching out into more interesting fields, like virtual reality. Continue to provide research to our clients, but be on the fore-front with companies who are growing in new areas. I’m hoping that with the people we have on staff now, we start to branch out into these new areas. I don’t think we will ever be really large. Our philosophy, our core values change — those won’t change. I think that’s why people hire us.
HM: Anything else I should know?
WC: I would just say that, I think we have a good team together-I’m pretty excited about our prospects! We have to think of creative ways to get our foot in the door, its such a word of mouth business. You can talk all you want, but it doesn’t mean anything until you get an quote request.