OPINION14 November 2019

Time to stand

Opinion UK

In the final of our series of articles from current MRS main board members, Tim Barber shares his experiences of taking on the role.

Two years ago, I told my colleagues I was thinking about standing for election to the MRS board. They wished me luck but said they wouldn’t be able to vote for me as they weren’t MRS members, and hadn’t been for several years. “Why bother – all you get out of it is a magazine every couple of months”.

That’s when I decided to stand.

I was worried that my colleagues’ attitude was far from rare. The MRS is a fantastic resource and it’s important to communicate that everyone in our industry can benefit from it, be they client, agency, or independent consultant, and regardless of age or experience. 

The MRS is rare for an industry body, as it is the regulator, the trade body and the organisation that looks after the needs of its individual members. The MRS helps to make sure our industry stays relevant in the face of a fragmenting landscape and emerging new disciplines. It needs to ensure that market research is seen as valuable – in the boardroom, media, and by the public (including graduates thinking about a career). Being involved in all this as a member of the board is a very rewarding experience.

One of our focuses has been trying to get a handle on the challenges facing the industry and expanding the offering to ensure we are encouraging and appealing to the next generation of researchers – as well as welcome rapidly growing disciplines like data analytics. We’ve started work there, but there’s more to be done.

One thing that I wasn’t aware of before I joined the board was how closely the MRS deals directly with government, and how seriously our views are taken when planning policy that affects the industry – not just within market research but wider issues such as the handling and processing of personal data – a hot topic these days. And of course, having a voice in how Brexit will affect the industry is vital, as is being party to (at least some of) the discussions that are going on behind the scenes.

Being a board member gives opportunities to get involved in areas beyond just the main board. For example, in my first year I was asked to become chair of the company partner service (CPS). The CPS is a linchpin between the MRS and organisations that work in market research, giving support to enhance their people and their processes.

The CPS board oversees this work, and liaises with the main board raising issues that are commercially significant.

I was still new and rather inexperienced on the main board, but going ‘in at the deep end’ and chairing  the CPS board has been a great experience  and meant I could get more involved than I would otherwise have expected.

Being on the board does require a regular commitment. And it can be tempting to push board duties down your priority list when your day job has pressing deadlines. But your obligations aren’t overly onerous or time consuming, and there is sufficient space between meetings and other board commitments, so there is plenty of opportunity to fit it into your own timetable.

As I’ll be standing again in the same election as the next group of candidates, I shouldn’t really be encouraging others to stand, but I think it benefits the industry and therefore all of us to have the best possible pool of people for everyone to choose from.

Tim Barber is a director at BVA BDRC 

Find out more about the MRS Main Board, what the role entails, and how to apply.

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