Status quo not an option: Sklar

Luke SklarPresidentLuke Sklar & AssociatesQ. What does it take to be an agent of change?A. I'm very flattered that you would call me an agent of change, but I would have not used those words to describe our service.Ours is one...

Luke Sklar


Luke Sklar & Associates

Q. What does it take to be an agent of change?

A. I’m very flattered that you would call me an agent of change, but I would have not used those words to describe our service.

Ours is one of empathy for our clients. We understand their business. We provide the objectivity necessary to differentiate what is fact from what is opinion, and make sure we do what we promise we are going to do.

Q. How has the client-supplier relationship changed over the past couple of years?

A. Over the last three years, there is no doubt that clients’ needs have changed in response to a highly pressured business environment.

They are all being told to do more with less. And they need to move a lot quicker. To the extent that we can make their lives easier in a very tricky world, we win.

Just as [clients] are being told to do more with less, they want their suppliers to make do for less and they want it yesterday. We are all making sacrifices in a restructuring of the business world.

I believe that clients, more and more, are basing relationships on results, and if you can deliver for your client, that is what earns you a relationship.

Q. When you enter a relationship with a client, how do you determine just how open they are to supplier-initiated change?

A. It’s interesting, but we’ve never made a cold call. All of our business has come from referral.

So the first response is that our clients have a sense of what they are buying. Our [market research] suppliers say to us, you have such nice clients, and it seems to me that that’s because a certain type of client will hire us. So they come predisposed.

The other thing is when you say open to supplier-initiated change, who wouldn’t be open to real results and real action?

Q. How important to the process of change is understanding your client’s business?

A. Understanding our clients’ business is fundamental to everything we do.

That being said, of course, change is very important. More and more the status quo is simply not an option for our clients to succeed.

On the other hand, we don’t believe in change for change’s sake. It is important to start with the problem, articulate intelligent hypotheses and understand the implications of actions based on those hypotheses.

We fill the information gaps to help them make these decisions to change.

Sometimes the decision is to not change but perhaps change the playing field.

Q. From where do you get your inspiration?

A. This one is easy – from being a client originally. I have sat in my client’s chair and know about the ambiguities and sometimes the academic limitations of research, and I know that our clients have to actually do something with the information. And that’s where it comes from.

Q. How do you stay on top of trends in your field?

A. Just as our clients have a [research and development] department, we have to. And that means, one day at a time, try to learn something every day. We learn from our clients, from internal discussion among the seven of us, and, obviously, we learn a lot from our suppliers. It is our job to pounce on any developments in the research industry.

Q. What would be your advice to clients who have expressed dissatisfaction with their suppliers’ willingness and ability to initiate change?

A. There are times when perhaps there is not a fit, when the chemistry is not there, or the added value is not there, and a parting of the ways may be the most appropriate route of action. If you can confront that, it’s a lot easier for both parties.

The answer is on-going, frequent communication. And rarely, in my opinion, is dissatisfaction a one-way street.

I think [clients] also have to take some responsibility. It’s a function of garbage in-garbage out. If you’re communicating, you know whether it’s right or wrong for you to continue doing business together.