After more than four successful decades as CEO of International Demographics, aka The Media Audit, Bob Jordan reflects on his accomplishments and industry challenges since starting the company in 1971. Jordan will retire at the end of this month at the age of 81. COO Chad Ladner will be stepping in as the new company president.
Interviewer: What were the circumstances that led you to starting up your own company?
Jordan: I was working for an advertising agency in Houston. We were making presentations to a number of banks. At the time, banks represented a profitable opportunity for new business during a period when branch banking was not allowed in the state of Texas. We were utilizing marketing research to determine ad effectiveness, monitoring our client’s brand performance, brand awareness, brand preference, product usage and attitudes. After acquiring a number of banks as clients, Jim Higginbotham and I talked about forming our own company to service banks. After discussing this for roughly two or three years, we decided to create International Demographics to track bank marketing effectiveness.
We offered the agency that I worked for an opportunity to be a third owner of ID, which they accepted. This provided us with custom research capabilities for the next three to six months while we continued to solicit new banking clients. We named these research reports The Financial Audit.
Interviewer: Looking back on the first ten years, what were some of your most significant accomplishments?
Jordan: When we conducted our first survey, I discovered valuable data that went beyond consumer banking behavior and attitudes. We had data that revealed and recorded consumer’s local media preferences such as exposure to different radio stations, evening TV news programs, daily newspapers and other print publications. This lead us to creating a report that we named The Media Audit, in addition to our bank report, which at the time we produced at no extra cost to International Demographics.
As it turned out, the first contract that I sold was to a radio station, which made it easy to sell other stations. However, the real money for a number of years came from the banking surveys.
From this early success, we expanded to other markets in Texas where we developed banking accounts as well as media accounts…and outside of Texas as we expanded into other markets across the country. The Media Audit became the leading revenue generator within six or seven years. The banking survey was dealt a death blow in the late 80’s when the FDIC closed many banks down as a result of losses in faulty commercial bank loans. This was especially true among leading banks in Texas when construction loans went unpaid during the banking crisis of the late 80’s and very early 90’s.
Interviewer: What are some of the major changes you have witnessed in the industry and how has that shaped your company’s vision, and the way you conducted business?
Jordan: Nothing stands still for long. As laptop computers became readily available, the technology related to our business started to change rapidly. The technology, along with a DOS software program that we developed internally changed the way we trained our media clients. There was a time when we went into a training session using an overhead projector illustrating the data in our printed reports, and then we transitioned to demonstrating our software using a laptop and LCD projector. Eventually our DOS program was replaced with a Microsoft and Apple version.
The Media Audit software was so easy to use that media sales people could easily put together sales presentations and that dramatically changed the way media sales were made.
Somewhere around the late 1990’s or early 2000’s media websites became popular, especially among daily newspapers. With this change, we added newspaper websites to The Media Audit surveys and that provided us an advantage in acquiring daily newspapers as clients.
The following year we added websites for television stations, other print publications and radio stations…which today are a necessary metric for all major media that sell across different media platforms.
More recently, social media has become a part of the marketing process for just about all media today and something that we survey in The Media Audit. It is also something we as a company began to embrace in our marketing communications. We now have a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, and a new corporate blog. We also rely on internet tools such as WebEx, Go-To-Meeting, and Skype for training and sales.
More recently streaming media is impacting the media scene…especially with regard to radio stations and satellite broadcasting as it impacts radio stations and internet media such as Pandora, IHeartRadio and other internet media streaming companies.
Interviewer: Is there something you had hoped to accomplish during your tenure but found that you just did not have time to do it?
I had hoped to go out with a much better profit and balance sheet than what we have accomplished since the recession that hit us three years ago. On the other hand we are still here and operating with a growing economy and improving income and balance sheet.
Interviewer: What would you like The Media Audit to achieve in the next ten years after your retirement?
I hope that ten years from now that The Media Audit will significantly increase its revenue base and be more competitive with every syndicated local market multi-media qualitative research company that might be in business at that time.
We need to continually strive to improve the level of service we provide to our clients, who can be our leading champions if we concentrate on their significance to our future and their wellbeing.
Interviewer: How do you think incoming President Chad Ladner’s tenure will differ from your own, both in terms of his leadership style and also the external factors he might face?
Jordan: Chad’s tenure will be different than mine. I tend to focus on the marketing side of business while Chad’s background will have him focusing on the financial well-being of the company as well as helping to establish new partnerships and grow the company.
Interviewer: Forty two years is a long time. Do you think you are going to have a hard time letting go?
Jordan: No! I am looking forward to retirement. I will retire at the end of November and will be 82 in January 2014. I will remain on the board of directors but in a much less active way.
Interviewer: What’s next for you now?
I look forward to doing more things with my wife and I will enjoy every minute of that part of my life. We plan on traveling domestically as well as foreign so long as our health and interest lasts. At the moment, we both have good health and are looking forward to retirement.
I plan to be more involved with our church…especially in terms of being involved with people who are in need such as those who cannot earn a livelihood.
Interviewer: After retirement, will you still have an interest in the company?
Yes…at least for the foreseeable future.
Interviewer: Final thoughts?
If I die tomorrow, I would feel extremely fortunate that I made it this far and had the fun that we did growing this company despite bumps in the road. We started this company when I was 39 years old, Jim was 40 and we made it 42 years together.