A decade after moving to Rochester to launch a research and analytics firm, Terry Sweeney is back at it, this time setting up U.S. operations for global marketing research and consultancy firm Ronin International.
Having guided startup of Edelman Data & Intelligence in Rochester from six interns to 65 employees in his nine years with the company, Sweeney is bullish on the talent coming out of local colleges and universities.
That’s why, when he interviewed with Ronin leadership to become the head of North American operations, he pushed for Rochester as the base. Aside from being his home, he believes the region is perfect for Ronin.
“It’s close enough to New York City, it’s close enough to Chicago, it’s close enough to D.C.,” Sweeney said. “We can get to any location by plane pretty easily. They were thinking New York, D.C. and I was like, ‘Why?’ We have a fantastic talent pool here, the economics work. In this environment where most people are hybrid or remote, I think it makes better sense to be in a smaller city.
“And since I had just done it with Edelman, I know the local environment and the folks here. They (Ronin executives) hadn’t considered it before but it wasn’t a hard sell. After hearing about the things that we had done at Edelman and when I talked about the local economy and rent costs, they were sold.”
Sweeney wants to tap into the talent produced by local universities and entice graduates to stay in Rochester. He plans to hire three or four full-time staff members before the end of the year, and then add more in 2024.
“The Rochester area has an amazing talent pool, given the universities in the area, and is really an amazing city to grow and develop a world class research team,” he said. “When I was at Edelman, I hired many college graduates, bringing them up into the research industry, training them into roles so they had a career path.”
Those new hires also provide value to the company, Sweeney believes.
“There’s 80,000 college students here, and bringing them in gives us a competitive edge,” he said. “They’re just coming out of learning environments where they’re talking about the latest technology and can implement and have the opportunity to help us develop the next generation of research techniques as we move forward, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Headquartered in London, Ronin caters to B2B and hard-to-reach audiences, addressing the needs of large corporations as well as research agencies. The firm is creating a North American hub to expand market reach.
The firm specializes in gaining insights from opinion leaders, opinion formers, HR professionals, financial services, IT and the types of business-to-business respondents that are not typically found in consumer work, Sweeney said.
Planting roots in Rochester for Ronin merely continues the city’s research tradition.
“Harris Interactive was a big firm here, one of the first interactive panels,” Sweeney said. “And there have been so many companies that are still here in Rochester than sprung out of Harris, so there’s a lot of history in the area of market research folks.”
Even so, there’s room for another, Ronin believes.
“These firms are sorely needed right now; COVID showed us that,” Sweeney said. “The ethos or the way that companies think or traditionally thought about how they sell their products, where they market their products, what they’re doing with their products, or even how people make decisions.
“Then they’re also looking at how do I invest in research to see if it’s changing back or what do I do to invest in the hybrid economy. There’s a lot more investment in research now and putting data at the core. Even with all the AI coming out, there’s a need to talk to people still, and that need’s not going to go away, especially if you’re talking about business-to-business folks and those harder-to-reach audiences that you’re not going to have a lot of access to.”
[email protected]/(585) 653-4020l