PIVOT 2016 Speakers: Interview with Jim Ittenbach, President of SMARI Research

PIVOT 2016 – Indiana’s business event of the year – is just around the corner.

Well, we decided to get in touch with one of the speakers, namely Jim Ittenbach.  This way, you get to know more about the person behind the presentation.

He founded SMARI, a custom market research company based in Indianapolis.  He’s a businessman and entrepreneur with over 44 years of experience.

Read on to find out what Jim Ittenbach has to say about his extended professional experience and the challenges he faced.

1. You began your career in 1972. What skills did your time at Herron Associates teach you, and how did it influence your professional view in the long run?

Herron Associates was my first job out of college, following a brief military adventure. While I had a personal interest in marketing, my work experience taught me the fundamental importance of inviting the consumer to participate whenever you are dealing with go-to-market decision making.

2. What was the main driving force behind SMARI?

The essence of SMARI is embedded within an acute desire to understand the consumer dynamic – we dogmatically seek to discover the motivating mysteries driving consumerism; with a perceptive focus on measuring the abilities of our clients to deliver a meaningful and rewarding customer experience.

3. You’ve been a senior partner at SMARI LLC for over 21 years. How did it shape your skills, career, and knowledge over the years?

As a senior partner, I have enjoyed working with very bright and talented individuals who constantly challenge and direct my ability to guide and deliver career opportunities that essentially reward our clients, our associates, and the company’s stakeholders.

Mindful that I must remain relevant, and to keep pace, continuous learning became a requisite and mentor support a rewarding necessity.

pivot 2016 jim ittenbach

4. How hard was it to successfully lead the LBO (Leveraged Buyout) of SMARI from the Associated Insurance Company? What influenced you to make this decision?

My experience at Associated Insurance Company, Anthem BCBS, was exceptionally rewarding. During my 10 years, our organization grew from a regional player to a Fortune 250 global enterprise.

Market drivers triggered a corporate decision to dramatically shift strategy from decentralization and diversification to consolidation and share dominance within the healthcare industry.

As such, entities within the overall corporate structure, that were not mission critical, were up for divestiture. I took advantage of this opportunity to position SMARI for divestiture and was fortunate to do so with a supporting LBO.

5. How did SMARI change since the LBO?

Post LBO, SMARI became a hybrid. Departing from a major corporate structure enabled us to keep in place the rigorous management tools and governance of big business, but allowed us to adopt the agility and mindset of an entrepreneurial smaller entity.

Yet, the reality that all you are and all that you have are at risk every day keep me highly focused and frequently exhausted.

6. What’s your biggest achievement as President of SMARI LLC?

Gathering and working with a talented pool of individuals that truly make a difference supporting the marketing and research needs of our clients. The result is a 95% client retention rate.

7. What are three of the most important aspects any entrepreneur should know?

  1. Never stop learning.
  2. Never stop improving.
  3. Always reward those who empower your success.

8. Are you excited for the upcoming PIVOT conference? What can the audience expect from your presentation?

PIVOT 2016 offers me an excellent opportunity to share in a learning experience with energetic leaders and aspiring individuals from a variety of careers – truly a rare opportunity.

I hope to share with the audience the energy that can be realized through discovery.

Thank you for your time.

You Can Learn More from Jim Ittenbach on November 16th, at PIVOT 2016

Jim Ittenbach will participating in a panel discussion called “So You Want to Start an Evolution”.

His partners will be Andy Skaggs, President at Perfecto Tool and Engineering, and Dr. Allen Bourff, Superintendent at Hamilton Southeastern Schools.

Here are the rest of the sessions you will surely find insightful:

  • “Lessons from an 85-Year-Old Startup” by Michael Thomas & Gary Thomas of LEAP Managed IT
  • “Driving Big Innovation” by Michael Goldsby, Chief Entrepreneurship Officer at Ball State University Sales Training
  • “Shining through Adversity to Become a Champion” by TAMIKA CATCHINGS 4 Time Olympic Gold Medalist, WNBA MVP

The sessions will discuss topics such as sales, entrepreneurship, innovation, and much more. For the full schedule of the conference, check out this link.

PIVOT 2016 takes place on 11/16/2016, at Launch Fishers 12175 Visionary Way, Fishers, IN 46038.

Get your early-bird tickets while they are still available.

Patrycja Thomas

Author: Patrycja Thomas

Fortune 500 sales and marketing veteran dedicated to helping small businesses change the world with technology.