Just like most media today, SMRN is heavily dependent on companies, organisations and individual readers to provide us with information that can become articles. We receive plenty of press releases (but we wouldn't mind getting even more), about new product releases, expansion, new people hired, great profit margins and other good news. Needless to say, we are very happy to publish them all. But what we very seldomly get, at least in a form and from a source that allows it to be published, are news about bankruptcies, staff firing, failed product launches and other misfortunes. Morever, if we find out about something that went wrong, managers are often very reluctant to talk about it. One great exception from this rule recently came from a former entrepreneur in Malmö.
Those immediately concerned, naturally finds out rather quickly when something negative has happened. Anyone calling fieldwork company Hermelin, once the largest in Sweden, after November 13, 2009 to ask for some phone interviews, were told to find another supplier, as bankruptcy was filed that day. No one at Hermelin sent us a press release about this, like they previously did about this and that, and we must shamefully confess that we missed the whole thing. We had seen key employees leave the company for some time: founder Lena Hermelin for business projects in other industries, long-term CEO Peter Bernström to found Dapresy, his potential succesor Carl Bernström to a PR company of his own. The list of former Hermelin employees having succesful careers elsewhere could go on almost forever, but it wasn't until former marketing manager Magnus Myrenberg turned up at newly-founded Sinitor earlier this year, that we added one and one and realised that an epoque in Swedish fieldwork had ended.
Another classic fieldwork company, but in Face2face, was Intervjupoolen. Like so many others, they became a victim of the credit crunch and had to give up in the spring of 2009. I wouldn't have known of this if I hadn't been responsible for checking the payments to the Swedish Market Research Day. Most invoices were paid on time or just a little bit delayed, but no money came from the Intervjupoolen delegates and they didn't return my email reminders. Thanks to the Internet, I didn't have to stay ignorant for very long. The bankruptcy had happened in the gap between SMRD and the due date for the invoice.
One of the most serious attempts we ever did to follow up on a bankruptcy was when the relatively small fieldwork company Interview Institute went down a couple of years ago. We searched for the CEO and part owner like blood hounds for a week but he never had time for us. We finally had to do with second hand information to be able to write an article. I can still to this day not understand why the CEO didn't want to give his version of the story. As it turned out, the two brothers running the company had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. They had fought hard and honest against bad odds for many years and what finally brought them down, were two dishonest clients who ran away from large bills for already finished work.
A person who definitely didn't run away, but were happy to stand up and explain her "failure", was Lotta Belstad, once the proud owner of Aview in Malmö, perhaps the best focus group facility in the country. She had done like every serious entrepreneur does before opening up a new business: checked with the potential customers. She had talked to virtually every company of any importance on the Swedish market research scene and they had supported her idea of a focus group venue in Swedens third largest city. This had absolutely no importance once Aview had opened in central Malmö and the financial crisis hit us all. The intended customers regretted the bad times and that they had to cut down and concentrate their qualitative research to Stockholm or to the Internet. Lotta managed to negotiate a 25% cut in rents and started looking for alternative sources of income, but when focus groups, the intended main business, was down to zero and she had lost all the money she had invested, she choose not to risk somebody elses money and called it a day.
Ironically enough, requests for quotes started coming in after Aview had closed down, although not to the extent that had motivated continued business. To get a fresh start in her new life, Lotta took help from a career counselor to find out what she really wanted to work with and now has a job as - career counselor!
These were just a few examples of what you haven't seen much of in our columns. I hope it goes to prove that you shouldn't be so shy about telling the world about your misfortunes. After all, it is from our mistakes that we learn and if you tell others what you have learnt - chances increase they will tell you.
But do keep the good news coming in as well - send them to email@example.com.