As Communications for Research (CFR) reaches a landmark anniversary of 20 years in business this week, I wanted to take this opportunity to share my perspective on this major milestone. As milestones such as these mean something different to each individual, it's important for me to share where we started and the journey this company has taken to reach its current state.
I was just 9 years old when my parents talked to me about their idea of moving from Indiana to Missouri to start a telephone data collection center. The entrepreneurial dreams of my dad and his experience in marketing research combined with my mom’s financial and operational prowess created a dynamic duo. For me, it meant a completely new life. The early years to me were endless days of playing in the creek behind the office and sitting at the computer playing games while my parents put their entire livelihood on the line to build something from nothing.
What is remarkable is that there is a core of 7 team members that started in those first few years that are still with CFR today. All of these people have spent the majority of their adult lives contributing to the growth and continued success of CFR and I truly couldn't be more appreciative of their hard work.
That brings perspective to the pending retirement of Carolyn Abrams in Steelville this coming week after over 17 years here. Looking at her average hours and seeing the types of studies she has worked on, I know each and every member at CFR will miss her presence and expertise. In fact, she has made over 1 million phone calls on behalf of CFR and our customers which is a special milestone on its own.
Further, my business partner and co-CEO, Curtis Burrow, our Operations Manager, Kim Rose, and Controller, Diane Stubbert, make up a team of key managers that have a combined 50 years of experience at CFR. That is pretty remarkable!
As everyone intuitively understands. Owning a phone room is not what it once was. Now just 65% of our revenue comes from services that are provided in the phone room. The vast majority of telephone work is actually complementary to the professional services we provide like programming research studies and managing the research process for our customers.
Our Current State
As I sat with one of our phone room managers this week observing and coaching her on her new role as an Interviewer Advocate and champion of our new performance review system she said to me, “CFR is not like it was years ago. It is not even like it was a year ago.”
She couldn't be more correct! We have a new company culture now, one that I push as hard as I can every day to improve by making myself vulnerable and trying to represent it with every action I take. CFR is now outcome oriented, setting goals and priorities based on continuous improvement initiatives that evolve the roles of the people in our organization regularly and improves the processes we have in place. All with one top priority in mind: delivering service that wins repeat business.
Now the vision that Curtis and I have of leading by putting people in a position to succeed is actually working for us. We think strategically about helping our people master skills, act autonomously, and understand the purpose of their role. We have momentum in business development and are receiving accolades from our customers and vendors about how great we are to do business with. We finally have a chance financially to move out of the period that we have called the “badlands” where as leaders we have felt the need to take on the world to keep our head above water. Our team is now stacked with leaders that execute at a high level and take ownership over helping us build the business.
So, what does a 20th Anniversary mean to me? That I should trust myself, keep learning and growing with the business. There is a real opportunity for CFR to thrive for years to come and I look forward to reflecting on the journey we take getting from here to our 30th, 50th and 100th anniversary.