Morpace - Back to the Future
By Jeff Resnick
This month’s Transform blog takes us to the Motor City, an appropriate venue for a discussion on transformation given the re-emergence of the auto industry as well as the rehabilitation aspirations of one of America’s storied cities. Morpace is an integral part of the automobile industry, the source of over half of its revenue. During our interview, Duncan Lawrence, Morpace’s President and COO, reflected on the how and why of its business transformation.
Morpace’s story is about a return to its roots of success intertwined with a firm vision of the future. Duncan characterizes its transformation as evolutionary, not revolutionary. Today, Morpace is one of the fastest growing ”traditional” market research firms – with double digit growth for each of the past five years. Here is his advice based on Morpace’s journey.
Start by establishing an “all in” culture. As for many in the MR industry, 2009 was a difficult year. Financial stability for Morpace, and many in our industry, was the immediate focus. Sacrifices were made by everybody on many fronts. Finger pointing was replaced with group-generated solutions. Communication was a strategic imperative, with regular Town Halls to discuss the status of the company. Because everyone was integral to successfully addressing the adversity of 2009, a shared culture with common goals developed among the staff instead of major fractures appearing throughout the organization. The result was the ability to capitalize on the recovery that began in 2010 – a year Morpace grew by over 40%. Annual revenues have topped double digits since then with a strong 2014 also expected. As Duncan pointed out, the catalyst for establishing an “all in” culture will differ from one organization to the next. However, getting everyone on the ‘same page’ is essential.
Map the future. The senior team began mapping the future for Morpace in 2011. Top leadership candidly discussed Morpace’s strengths, weaknesses and the brand they wanted to bring to market. The soul searching took Morpace back to its roots of providing deep industry expertise to clients with an eye toward accomplishing this on a much larger scale. This became the ideological foundation for launching two strategic initiatives – becoming more consultative with clients and growing globally. These strategic decisions had far reaching implications for Morpace – from the people it hired to the infrastructure it built. But by making these choices, the road map for Morpace’s transformational journey was put in place.
Look from the outside in. One of the skills that Duncan looks for in professionals joining the firm is their ability to put themselves in the shoes of their client. An accurate understanding of the client, their needs and challenges is crucial. Understanding client needs is a mandate for the transformational process. For Morpace, it confirmed decisions to expand globally and move in a consultative direction.
Focus on what you are best at, find partners for everything else. Historically, Morpace owned all necessary services to complete client work. However, it became clear many services were best left to specialist firms where ongoing development was a core investment priority. This decision allows Morpace to assign internal resources in a way that delivers true value and insights, enhanced by tools and services readily available through partners.
Don’t just talk about transformation, get people doing it. Duncan emphasizes that while transformation has to be driven from the top, it also has to be owned by employees. When required change is identified, Duncan encourages leadership to assign the ownership and implementation of that change to a team. This embeds the mechanics of transformation into the fabric of the organization.
For Morpace, business transformation is an ongoing journey, yet, the recognition of the need to change and the willingness to do so are clearly two powerful factors in the success it is achieving today. That is not to say there won’t be bumps in the road. Reward is not without risk. Growth is not without setbacks. However, establishing a culture of ongoing transformation can only have positive outcomes in an industry where the winds of change are constant.
Morpace’s focus moving forward is to become faster, smarter and more innovative. If it makes progress in these areas both now and in the future, continued success is within its grasp.
One final word – congratulations to the entire Morpace team on being named CASRO’s 2014 Research Organization of the Year.
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