FEATURE1 January 2009

If there’s one thing I've learnt... James Turner

Career tips for research practitioners. This month: James Turner, director at Populus

The best advice I’ve had is… what goes around comes around, especially in our industry. Be nice to people.

The worst advice I’ve had is… ‘The tabs will be fine, they’re always fine…’

You know you’re doing well when… you get someone else’s job to do as well as your own.

Don’t overestimate… how interested a client is in what we do. It’s up to us to prove return on investment and speak in their language.

Don’t underestimate… how a different point of view can solve a problem. Don’t be afraid to ask.

One moment in my career I’ll never forget is… staying up all night pulling together a 120-page client proposal even though we knew we couldn’t win the business. Later I found out that the client gained respect for our efforts and we won future business on the back of it.

If I hadn’t been a researcher… I would have been a mining engineer. I qualified the year before becoming a researcher and spent time in South African gold mines. When things go wrong, I remember how my life could be different.

You must read… ‘Why Do Buses Come in Threes? The hidden mathematics of everyday life’ by Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham. It’s a great little book.

Young researchers should… understand that it takes time to gain experience. Hours checking data or reading transcripts are always well spent.

If this industry could only… stop letting other people get all the credit for our good work. I hope the trend of distinguishing between the two skills sets of applying insight and conducting research gets the industry the recognition it deserves.

One day I hope to… run a small boutique hotel where the customer experience is out of this world. Having worked for a company that takes customer experience so seriously, I’m not very forgiving of bad service these days.

My career… has taken me from agency to client and back to agency again. It’s easy to think some clients aren’t research-savvy but the reality is simply that they have different priorities to an agency. The best work is done when agencies get the relationship right and take great insights into the business as a partnership.