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And it’s a goodbye from…

2021 was a year of change and for some in our industry it was time to move on to doing other things with their lives. Two of our long term members – Phyllis Mitchell and Peter Spalding – took the opportunity to retire from research. Here is their potted histories and thoughts on their respective research careers.

Phyllis Mitchell of Phyllis Mitchell & Associates – 52 Years in Market Research – What a Journey!

Phyllis started in the Market Research industry in 1968 at the suggestion of her then husband Howard, who was a door-to-door interviewer with Roy Morgan. She followed suit and set off on her original quest, questionnaires in tow, to uncover consumers’ response to biscuits. It was a rocky start, and it took a number of months for her to consider touching Market Research again.

Phyllis went on to be an industrial interviewer for Phillip Shrapnel at the time you made your own appointments and there were no cash incentives offered to respondents. Including time with Shrapnel, she had stints as a Field Supervisor for Sydney Researchers, Field Manager for an emerging blue chip Melbourne firm, while also balancing the demands of bringing up four sons. Three of her sons would eventually become involved with Market Research, both in Melbourne and Adelaide. Peter as an interviewer, Phillip as Office Manager and Gordon, now at the helm to steer the next chapters.

Her business motto, “if you take on a job, you finish it and you do it well”, soon had her chasing replacement interviews in the field to cover dishonesty, fabrication and lack of probing. 15 years passed trying to improve the standards, the honesty and loyalty of interviewers, challenges that the industry still faces today.

In 1983 Phyllis decided to move across to qualitative recruiting and open her own company (Phyllis Mitchell & Associates) to have greater control in managing projects. With the help of 4-5 excellent recruiters, her crew, she has overseen the removal of many unsuitable people and practices in the industry. Although some of these issues still continue to the current time.  Qualitative Recruitment has transformed from ‘Bums-on-Seats’ to now having the correct bottoms on the right spots. Sophistication and refinement of the process has led to amazing changes and improvements. Phyllis said “Quality Control has been my focus and mission. Frequently I hear a respondent plea “what do you want me to answer to take part”. Geeze, I should write a book, a satirical comedy into human behaviour. I am proud of the standard our company has achieved with the correct disciplines and work ethic. This is also reflected in the returns of my investments of time and leadership into my sons. A finishing thought, we strongly need to continue to explain our industry to the public and educate them on the benefits of research. The Research Society holds such an important position here.

 It is hard work on the coal face for recruiters. We are part of the research process, we believe an important one, but often undervalued. My work has been challenging but outweighed by the returns – knowledge of products, services, and of course people. May Market Research continue to strengthen, overcome challenges, grow and consolidate its place in our society. Thank you for the opportunity.

Peter Spalding of Flying in Formation has called time on a 43 year career in research in the UK and Australia.

Peter started out in market research at HJ Heinz in the UK and went on to work for a number of leading London ad agencies in the 1980’s dabbling in the then new art of planning before becoming a partner at the innovative brand planning consultancy, Expressions.

In 1990, Australia beckoned and after a brief stint with the legendary Liz Dangar, Peter started Flying in Formation, leading the way for a number of more strategically focused research agencies that have flourished since.

Peter moved to Adelaide in 1996 as Strategy Planning Director with Y&R Adelaide, but in 2001, after 5 years back in ad land he rebooted Flying in Formation. Flying in Formation has been one of South Australia’s leading research outfits for the last 20 or so years with projects being conducted locally, nationally and internationally. In conclusion to a career in market research

Peter said…“It’s been a fabulous way to earn a living. Always varied, its provided the opportunity meet lots of great people, learn about all manner of issues and travel all around the country and the globe. It’s been a blast!”


All the best to Phyllis and Peter for their next endeavors from all at The Research Society. Thank you for your years of support as loyal members of the Society.

Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

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The Research Society is the peak body for research, insights and analytics professionals in Australia. It has a diverse membership of individuals at all levels of experience and seniority within agencies, consultancies, client-side organisations, the non-profit and government sectors, support services as well as institutions and the academic community. As well as over 2,000 individual members, the Research Society has 125+ company and client partners, with the number continuing to grow. The Research Society research professionals and company partners commit to and are regulated by the Research Society Code of Professional Behaviour.