Son of a researcher

I am the son of a marketing researcher. My father, Tom Quirk, spent nearly 25 years conducting and coordinating marketing research, primarily in the agricultural industry.

Growing up as the child of a researcher in the 1970s and ’80s, it was common for my dad to be on the road two to three weeks every month doing focus groups and working on studies. At times, my siblings and I would have to help him stuff envelopes for mail surveys he was conducting.

While other kids’ parents had careers that were easily explainable (nurse, lawyer, mechanic, banker), I always had a hard time describing what a market researcher was when people asked what my father did. I became so accustomed to watching their eyes glaze over as I outlined his job that I eventually just learned to say that he was a vice president at a company. This answer always seemed to satisfy people.

I have to admit, while I knew what he did and how hard he worked at it, I never really had an appreciation for it. To me, it was simply a job that supported our family.

In 1986, he started Quirk’s Marketing Research Review. Throughout his career he knew the industry needed a publication for the corporate researcher that would help guide them through their research projects. After I graduated from college in 1994, my father offered me a full-time position at the magazine. I took the job thinking it would be a stepping-stone to other things.

Looking back, it is one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only has it turned into a career I love, but I got the pleasure of working with and for my father for 12+ years.

In that time, I learned valuable business and life lessons:

• Honesty and integrity should be the backbone of any business.

• Customer service and customer relationships are critically important.

• A quick buck is not worth it.

• Money is not the most important thing in life.

• Do what you love to do.

• Check your ego at the door.

• Don’t forget to help those in need.

I now realize that many of the lessons I learned from my father were passed on to him by working in and serving the marketing research community. This has led me to develop a great respect for the industry we serve and all those who toil in it.

In September, the MRA presented my father with the Meritorious Service to Marketing Research Award for his 40 years as an advocate for the industry. My father did not set out for this achievement; he simply worked hard at what he loved to do.

I could not be more proud of my father and more proud to admit that I am the son of a researcher!

This entry was posted in Focus Groups, Qualitative Research, Quantitative Research, The Business of Research. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Son of a researcher

  1. Anne Miner says:

    Wow Steve that is a powerful acknowledgement of your father’s influence – he is obviously a wonderful role model and mentor.

    The lessons he taught are applicable to every walk of life but it is sure nice to know that market researchers can set a good example too.

    How do we explain what we do at a cocktail party? Well, my company, The Dunvegan Group, specializes in customer satisfaction and customer retention research – we help our clients to understand and deliver against their customers’ expectations, provide first class customer care and bind their customers to them so tightly that they will never want to leave.

    Of course, that high flying explanation begs the question, “How do you do that?” And, then we have to explain that we use the tools of the survey researcher – we ask questions, record answers, tabulate and analyze etc.

    And, if I am lucky, I don’t get asked “Are you the people who call us up at dinner time?”

    But, when I do, I explain that my business deals mainly with companies who sell their goods and services to other companies (B2B) so we rarely find ourselves calling households. When we do, we call in the evening and on weekends – when we are most likely to find people at home. As for calling at dinner time – yes, we call at dinner time cause today dinner time is anytime from 5:00 pm to 9:00 or even 10:00 pm. We ask to set up a convenient time to complete the interview though – we don’t just start right in never taking a breath in hopes that the respondent will just go along with us.

    How do you explain?

  2. Hi all, I must say Steve and I are like twin drops of water, why? My father was a researcher for 50 years, he mainly did business to business research (I don’t…), I’m a researcher, I gaduated in ’93 (Saint Louis Universtiy, MO, EEUU) and I learn MANY things from him. He was one of the first researchers in Spain (in Bilbao, where most industry was located in the 60s and 70s,), founded the first Spanish associations of researchers in Spain, etc… I personally enjoy every single years in the sector (by the time, 18 years now), and learn new things every day, and haven’t got tired (because if I do, I will run away to other things in life). Stev, thank your for your article, I might write one about my father in the near future, or may be part II of what to say in a cocktail party

  3. Andy says:


    A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of your article regarding how we explain what we do at cocktail parties. Over in the UK this is a dilemma too and one which I tried to tackle in a Pecha Kucha at an ‘Association of Qualitative Researchers’ (AQR) event in London.

    Here’s a link to ithe PEcha Kucha if you’re interested

    thanks for the great article