How to make it 10 years in the research business: THINK CEO reveals top 10 ways to win • THINK Global Research

Research is a big investment. How do you get it right? To celebrate THINK’s 10 year milestone, I sat down with THINK’s Founder and CEO, Kristy Ihle, to ask her myself.

Introducing Kristy Ihle 

Kristy Ihle is the founder and CEO of THINK Global, a boutique agency based in the heart of Melbourne. During her 10-year tenure, Ihle has overseen transformational changes in multiple industries including aviation, healthcare, media, and property development, just to name a few. These insights have been instrumental in moving strategic documents out of the boardroom, to be shaped by the customer.

Kristy is a trained behaviourist and leads the way in this new customer-centric insight economy.

In her spare time, she gets back to her country town roots, spending time with her husband and two free-spirited daughters on the vineyards in country Victoria where she was born and raised.

1. Get to know what the buzz word “customer-centricity” really is  

People didn’t know what customer centricity was back in 2008, it was a hard sell. Even now, can you tell me what customer centricity means to you and how you use it to drive day to day operations? I’ll explain… It’s simple. The customer defines you, creates your problems and provides the solution. Please stop making it up! If you’re defining your business strategy with an executive team and not your customer, you are getting it wrong. Start with the customer and end with the customer.

2. Connect the (strategic) dots; connect the people 

The first thing I ask a client when kicking off a project: “Can I see the business strategy?” I am often greeted with “not sure if we have one”. On receipt, I then ask all facets of the business (from exec, marketing, operations) to explain how they demonstrate the brand pillars day to day. If all people in different divisions of the business can’t articulate what the strategic pillars mean to them, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

3. No longer the ugly cousin anymore, research is sexy

I love walking into the room and hitting the business with “aha”. It’s been a big part of our success. I remember a key client in my early days saying, “if you show me another friggen chart I’m going to fall asleep!”. Weave the story, hit with impact, make it sexy. Outline the 5 game changers and collaborate with your client on its feasibility rather than piling on chart after chart.

4. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen

If you don’t like what the research tells you (the truth), you need to harden up. End of story.

5. Laugh and cry often

Not on the inside, but openly with your clients. Transparency is the secret ingredient for great collaboration. Empathise, talk confidentially and intimately about their struggles.  It’s very important to understand pain points. Getting intimate with your supplier is the only way for us to really deliver for you. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable – both supplier and client.

6. Be authentic, but you need to adapt with your clients and the market (or die)

The same old black box ripped off proposal and lack of intimacy had seen the rise of THINK. We may not have the same slick brochure, but we do keep our finger on the pulse to build from the ground up every time.

7. Pause for reflection and seek your own feedback 

When do we really get it right, and more importantly, wrong, at THINK? Throughout 10 years in business, there are bound to be battle stories with the scars to prove it.  So why are some projects so successful, others not as much? What’s the secret?  It’s about being customer-centric at every angle. When both client and supplier have mutual trust and open communication, you can weather the storm together (sharing an umbrella).

8. Work is family. Don’t look for balance, look for this

It’s about integrity, family and authenticity. Over the years, THINK has rejected multiple offers to merge in favour of upholding those values. Success no longer hinges on the material, instead, it is derived from upholding THINK’s steadfast commitment to doing what we do better than anyone else in the market (and having fun while we’re at it!).

9. In a crazy numbers world, it’s easy to forget we are dealing with people 

Put your customer at the centre of every decision you make. It’s actually fool-proof, but often forgotten when dealing with data.

10. What do we actually do? I can’t tell you.

Reflecting on our 10 years in business, I struggle with cramming what we do at THINK into a flashy and succinct elevator pitch.

My conclusion is, we don’t have one because we never do the same thing twice. We work in a constantly changing environment based on the varying needs of our clients, using science to harness the voice of the customer and deliver actionable commercial outcomes. There, that’s my elevator pitch.

What’s next?

To honour this fabulous milestone, I want to share with you our ‘secret sauce’ –  our clients. Stay tuned as we roll out our first few clients, profiling what we have done and how it changed the game for them.

Sincere thank you to all my amazing friends, family, clients and wonderful colleagues, who have been on this wild ride with me over the last 10 years. This would be impossible without your trust and support.

So, to celebrate 10, we popped the champagne – in true THINK fashion.

Kristy and the TH?NKers