Business in Vancouver's "How I Did It" feature asks business leaders to explain in their own words how they achieved a business goal in the face of significant entrepreneurial challenges. In this week's issue, Steve Mossop talks about leaving his position as western region president for Ipsos Reid, Canada's largest market research and public opinion polling firm, to start his own market research company, Insights West.
"The decision to strike out on my own was a big one because being part of a big company for that long, it's a very safe environment. It's a pretty big step to go from a large company with 20,000 employees to a company that started with one.
"I spent a lot of years in multinational business, and it's just not what I wanted to do anymore. Our company went through a pretty significant transition in a number of acquisitions. We went from 10,000 employees to almost 20,000 in a year's time. Just the level of bureaucracy that goes with a company that size – that was the last straw for me. I was very determined that I was going to do my own thing.
"I think I have the entrepreneurial abilities to pull it off. All the other companies came across as same-old, and I felt I can make a bigger impact on my own.
"I've managed a couple of hundred people in my career, so I had no shortage of people willing to work for me. All 10 or 11 of us have worked together in the past.
"Determining how fast I could grow from my starting point was the biggest initial struggle, and related to that was share capital: Do you want to go and borrow $1 million? Do you start with organic growth money? The ultimate decision was a combination of organic growth with startup funding from a limited number of partners.
"One advantage of being local is that people know you, and they trust you. There seemed to be a real willingness to help me succeed at every level – not just clients who want to work with me, but suppliers and even competitors were very friendly to seeing the startup be successful.
"We are really one of the only firms that exclusively focuses on Western Canada, so we're a boutique shop that really knows the market in the local area, unlike some of the multinationals who operate in Vancouver.
"We focus on digital and social media and online. We've developed a panel of close to 10,000 people who are willing to participate with us in surveys via traditional email approach but also mobile and tablet devices. We do mobile-based surveying, which opens up the ability of consumers to give other forms of feedback, like video and pictures.
"One of the downsides of a big company is the overhead. We're able to not only provide a level of innovation that is a step beyond, but also price-wise it is easy to outstep the competition.
"At the end of December, we hit the $1 million mark. I expected to do $500,000, and I ended up doing double that. My plans are to double the size of the business by next year and become a market leader in Western Canada within a five-year period." •