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NEWS13 May 2019

Obituary: Ken Parker

News People UK

Ken Parker passed away on the 2nd May 2019 with his wife and family around him, aged 66. 

Ken will be remembered for his business achievements and that he did this with his unique style combining talent, entrepreneurship, care for his employees and a healthy dose of fun.  

His research career spanned 40 years and was only second in longevity to his football career, where his dream of being picked by Spurs meant he kept playing into his 60s. 

Ken started at NOP before he moved to RSL (now Ipsos) where he worked his way up to become joint managing director – a position he earned in large part thanks to his role in creating sponsorship research as a sector in its own right. Mike Denny who sat on the board with Ken remembers his friendship and research prowess fondly: 

“Working with Ken at RSL (now Ipsos Mori) proved to be the start of a professional relationship which endured for over 20 years. Joint managing directors do not always have harmonious relationships, but we got on famously. I was more the bean counter, while Ken was the business development expert, with a real passion for getting behind the meaning of data and presenting to clients in a way that made the results come alive, long before the word insight became fashionable.”

In 1995 Ken embarked on a new chapter, working with his wife Trish to create their own research company and enable them to spend more time together. Discovery was born shortly afterwards and what they achieved together over the following 20 years was nothing short of amazing.  

To start with, they devised a strict business plan and structure limiting the company size to just four employees….but such is the success of their partnership that within the first 12 months the business had already surpassed this, won its first MRS award for Ken’s paper ‘The West Ham syndrome’ and added countless clients.

It didn’t stop there; they grew their brand in different directions almost every year from that point on. The first step was to partner with Elaine Francis when she established Criteria Fieldwork in 1996.  Like all who have worked with Ken, Elaine recalls how influential he was upon her: 

“Ken was entrepreneurial, a man of integrity and fairness. This was demonstrated in the way he conducted his work and his involvement with Criteria. Over the years, Ken and Trish became close personal friends and without fail Ken was always sociable, charismatic and supportive. He always lit up a room with his love of life.”

They also instigated the expansion of the business into viewing facilities creating Spectrum, a brand that grew to have multiple sites and independently won several awards.

Ben Parker, managing director of Spectrum says: “The formidable partnership of Ken and Trish was a great fit for Spectrum. They were driven by creating an offer that went the extra mile, anticipating the changing needs of the industry. Ken often provided some fantastic ideas, sometimes outlandish and balanced by Trish, but they always drove the business forward. Everybody who has worked at Spectrum has benefited from this vision and expresses their gratitude for working at a place with the values they both instilled.”

Prompted by another of these fantastic ideas and the belief that research should evolve and embrace new opportunities, the world of online research was next to get the Parker magic with the creation of the qualitative platform The Thinking Shed.   

Ken always supported the bodies that help to guide and shape the industry. Giving back was just part of the energy that he had. He was a fellow of the MRS and was also chairman of the AQR from July 2012 to June 2015. 

In more recent years he and Trish turned their hands to helping spread the word about research as a career, setting up the MRS graduate roadshows. Just another illustration of a man that loved his industry and wanted to share that with as many people as he could.

By the time Ken retired he had been the instigator, driving force, visionary and hands on manager for a number of great companies that still span the research world. In doing this, countless members of staff were given their chance to flourish under his guidance and mentorship and are themselves now shaping the future of research. We all have him to thank for this.

On a personal note, it was only working with Ken and Trish that I realised what an amazing industry we are in; Ken’s passion was infectious, he really loved what he did. I am proud to have worked for him, with him, and ultimately take over the research reins from him and Trish at Discovery. His values will always remain part of the DNA of the company. I speak for everyone who knew him by saying that he will be greatly missed.

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