Seeing The Beauty of Change

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  • by Tim Urmston

Big change rarely asks permission… but when it does, I am learning the bravery and the beauty in granting it.  I want to share that with you.

Twenty years ago, I found myself at a crossroads between staying in my corporate job or stepping out and starting my own company.  With a strong aversion to apathy and a prompting from the passing of a friend, I found myself walking out the door of a stable job and into risk and uncertainty.  With that uncertainty came adventure, and the chance to build something that matters in this world from the ground up. I remember asking myself what would it be like to create a company where the people who worked there couldn’t wait to get to work?  Thus, SEEK was born as a boutique qualitative market research firm founded in my home in Greenhills, OH.  

I remember sitting at my Sauder desk in the basement with a baby in one arm and a phone in the other trying to drum up business from anyone I knew in the industry.  I remember how close we came to losing it, to running short, to running out so many times. I also remember what it was like to see a seed planted so long ago begin to grow ever so slightly year after year until we found ourselves with a real building, with a real office, with a full staff.  We occupied an old German row house in Northern Kentucky where nobody had an office but we created watering holes for our staff to gather naturally and create new ways of tackling our client's challenges. We felt alive and free and everything we touched became purposeful.

During that journey, we stumbled upon this incredibly powerful catalyst for marketplace change called empathy.  As we studied empathy, we realized that if we could get our clients to empathically connect with the people they were trying to serve, we could literally change the world through the meaningful work we were doing.   We began to teach our clients to practice Empathy in their work and their lives. It wasn’t what we thought we were in business for; it wasn’t even what we thought we were going to be good at. We found ourselves staring at change.  We embraced it, and let the change change us.

It’s the end of 2018, and change is upon us once again.  Two decades after founding SEEK in my basement, we are stronger, smarter and more dialed-in than we have ever been.  We have expanded into new offerings in new industries and are working with clients we have only dreamed of working with.   I feel like we are more efficient and more effective than we have ever been. What a perfect time for change. I’m so proud of our team and all that we’ve accomplished, but there’s still much more to do, and we have our sights set on an even brighter future that we can’t accomplish alone.

With empathy still at the core of everything we do, we are ecstatic to announce the merging of SEEK with Directions Research.   By integrating our methods and tools with the scale and strength of an industry leading quantitative firm like Directions, we can guide our collective clients into the next realm of insights, storytelling, innovation and strategy at an expansive rate.  We, as a company, are embracing this change because we are continuing to chase what is best for our clients, and for humanizing the marketplace. 

I am so grateful for this journey; I am grateful for all current and former employees who walked this road with us, grew up with us, and left their mark on the world through the work we do.  I am grateful for our clients who have trusted us and continue to trust us to find the human story within their work. I am grateful for all friends and family who have taught us tough and inspiring lessons along the way.  And I am grateful for God’s grace on the day I was called to leave what was safe and comfortable to venture into a full life of adventure and unchartered waters. I’ll continue to embrace change because ultimately, I can see beauty added to my life and my leadership with every change.