Corporate Research Associates Inc.
Beyond statistics: Corporate Research Associates at work
When companies in Nova Scotia – and beyond – want answers, they turn to Corporate Research Associates. The Halifax-based firm is celebrating its 30th anniversary as Atlantic Canada’s leading market research and market intelligence firm and one of the top 20 in the country.
“Primarily we use various survey research methods to get information for our clients,” explains President and CEO Don Mills.
“But ultimately we are in the business of information,” he adds. “We turn information into knowledge, and knowledge into strategy.”
In an information age, it is incumbent on companies like Corporate Research Associates to stay ahead of the virtual curve.
“We continue to evolve our business using the Internet more and more in our work,” says Mills.
CRA, which employes 30 professionals, uses the most advanced software solutions to design and develop web-based surveys with full multi-media capability. In Canada, for example, they can provide clients with access to more than 400,000 Canadians through web-based research.
“Not only that, we have the ability to segment that population to provide more customized solutions,” notes Mills. “Through our own dedicated application development team, we customize each online market survey to the client’s own specifications.”
At CRA, however, the emphasis is not on numbers but on people. “It’s a people business,” says Mills. Those people include both CRA employees and CRA clients.
To ensure that clients get the best service possible, the company works to ensure that its employees are highly skilled and highly satisfied with their jobs.
“We have a strong retention of our senior people. In turn, we can offer clients senior people to help them do the work,” says Mills. “We always have a senior person – someone with at least ten years experience – on every project.”
“That is a big difference between our company and others,” he notes.
For the past two years, Corporate Research Associates has been named in the Top 10 Best Places to Work in Atlantic Canada. That’s a ranking Mills and his colleagues do not take lightly.
“We try to make sure our employees are well treated,” he notes, adding, “We’ve always had the philosophy that people should share in the company.”
Some of that sharing includes taking 25 per cent of the firm’s pre-tax profits and putting them into an employee pool from which employees can then earn up to an additional 20 per cent of their base salary. Each employee also has a career development account worth three per cent of their base salary. They spend this money on professional development such as courses, materials, and workshops.
“We are here for our employees,” says Mills. “They are the centerpiece of our company and the reason for our success. We try our best to keep them happy.”
Doing that requires both resourcefulness and innovation. The company, which also has offices in Montreal, Ottawa and Victoria, conducts a strategic planning process each year – and every employee participates.
“We explore how to improve our products and services. We have a continuous improvement program. We’re always trying to determine what’s next,” says Mills.
That means encouraging employees to share ideas – and listening, carefully, to those ideas.
“We reward people for innovative ideas,” says Mills. “It’s at the heart of the services we provide.”
One such innovative idea that became reality is the Boomer Monitor, a national, syndicated study on Canadians 42-62 years of age that provides the most comprehensive market research findings available on this group, a disproportionately important market segment of the Canadian population.
“Results from our semi-annual study of baby boomers in Canada indicate that this is not one single market,” says Mills. “Indeed, there are several important sub-segments with very different attitudes and purchase behaviours. To further complicate matters, there are significant differences in attitudes and behaviours based on where baby boomers live in Canada.”
Organizations need information like this if they are to understand this important market segment and CRA is pleased to provide that information. Those same organizations want to look inside to their own operations to understand how they can improve their workplace. So Corporate Research Associates developed the Employer Report Card, which rates employers and gives them direction on how to enhance their internal operations and approaches.
The focus isn’t always on work, however.
“We talk about balance a lot in our business,” says Mills. “Our projects can be very intensive. We need to give back to our employees so they can enjoy themselves outside the workplace.”
Employees, for example, always get a half-day off before a long weekend and in the summer the office closes at 4 p.m. “We want our employees to enjoy what Nova Scotia has to offer. We want them to have some balance in their lives,” says Mills.
“Our employees, like most Nova Scotians, are hard working, dedicated and loyal. You can count on people in this province to do a good job,” he says.
Nova Scotia will always be headquarters for Corporate Research Associates but the company is growing. As Mills says, “We’re spreading our wings.”
CRA’s field service operations have led to the establishment of Blue Ocean Contract Centres, a call center operation that employs more than 600 people. The company has also launched Total Marketing and Communications, now the largest market research firm in Bermuda.
“Today, 40 per cent of our business at CRA is from outside Nova Scotia,” says Mills. “But Nova Scotia will always be our home. This place has shaped who we are as a company.”