Saros Research is well into its challenging teenage years now, not-coincidentally the same age as my eldest daughter.
Of course they have both changed a great deal in almost 15 years, but my motivation remains the same – to offer an excellent participant recruitment service to researchers in the UK, who need people to take part in interesting and well-paid research events.
Back then at the turn of the new millennium, the technology which enabled successful home-based working was in its infancy – and the research recruitment industry was dominated by face-to-face networking conducted on street corners with clipboards. However, email was starting to become commonplace particularly for business users, and I knew there was another way of doing things – a way that made location less important. Starting with a phone and a laptop as well as a new baby girl, I had every reason to make it work. With the backing of a researcher who desperately needed a recruitment service with integrity and scope, I had a fantastic opportunity to create something completely innovative, and not go back to my previous job in education administration.
Fast forward to 2015, and Saros Research is now acknowledged as the biggest dedicated research participation portal for qualitative and user experience researchers in the UK, and recruits hundreds of people every week to take part in focus groups, interviews, website testing, online communities, product testing and ethnographic projects, all over the country.
We remain a “small” business, with 8 full-time project managers and administrators now – a fantastic team of people delivering the Saros service to researchers from their homes, backed up by a team of self-employed Research Bookers. Almost all the team are parents – not intentionally, but it’s fallen out that way because of the flexibility of home-based working… an excellent bunch of both Mumpreneurs and Dadpreneurs!
My own role is now focused on business development and database development – communicating the work and expertise of Saros to the research community, and continually reaching out to new potential members for our participant database. I love being able to combine my commitment to the Saros brand with my passion for writing and social media, public speaking and travel.
As well as being the mother of two lovely girls now, another significant lifestyle change occurred 6 years ago when we took homeworking to an extreme and relocated to the Spanish Costa Blanca. With cheap flights to the UK and ever-improving communications available, it is possible to truly make location-independent living work nowadays, and there are in fact 5 of us working full-time for Saros in Spain (including my husband, as it turned out – not what we’d planned, but actually suits our family lifestyle extremely well) We also have a project manager based in Egypt… Sharing a VOIP phone network and near-enough a timezone, we are all able to serve our UK-based clients effectively wherever we are.
Of course there are challenges juggling work and family commitments, and my extensive travel to the UK and international conferences would not be possible without the support of my family – it’s much easier now our girls are a bit older. I don’t miss the weather and lifestyle in the UK, but I do envy the broadband speeds at times! Then I remember the technology challenges our colleague in Luxor deals with daily, and feel a bit better… and look out at the sea and palm trees and take a deep a calming breath.
We were thrilled to be shortlisted in the SME category of the Working Mums Best Employer awards in 2014, and remain committed to steady growth in the location-independent style. We know that offering flexible working, as well as a highly autonomous ‘employeepreneur’ account management approach, enables us to retain some extremely talented and loyal team members – and that for most of them, a ‘traditional’ job involving commuting to a central office would not be an option, mainly due to parenting commitments.
Whilst we may only see each other face-to-face a couple of times a year we work extremely closely together thanks to videoconferencing and instant messaging, and have a great team atmosphere despite everyone working independently on their own projects and accounts. We have a big party every summer and invite all the partners and family members to attend too, fully recognizing that homeworking has an impact on family life, as well as vice-versa.
We love the diversity of the project we recruit for, which range from focus groups for household brands to user experience tests for cutting-edge start-ups. We continually need new people to participate, and our events take place in London and all over the UK – please do register with us as a participant if you’d like to be invited to sessions near you.
And if you are interested in working for Saros, we are open to applications from potential interviewers (self employed, home based), at any time.