The Free-From World

Oh crikey, can it really be nearly two years since our last blog post? How rude of us.

Just a quick alert for any readers that we are working on a major piece of (self-funded) research into the Free From food & drink market. We're looking to launch this in early November 2017 and are hoping for lots of coverage and interest. It is a fascinating sector and my interest has been very much piqued by a combination of having a couple of clients in the sector coupled with my own sorry tale of needing to completely overhaul my diet (i.e. cut out dairy and wheat, among other things). I haven't had a biscuit for months; I am worried this means I could lose my passport, as surely every Englishman is characterised by his proximity to a packet of Hobnobs.

Expect more regular posts as we launch the report. In the interim, if you've anything you'd like to see covered, please do get in touch:

Take care

Smon/ Philip

The Best Things About 2015

Most best-of lists this year will feature Star Wars. And in a few days' time, once I've seen it, maybe I'll add it to this list. This will, of course, result in a rolling of eyes from Philip who reckons he hasn't seen any of the series. On which point, see his pen profile and comments about his vegetarianism and left-handedness and accept that where others push, he pulls. Don't get me started on his music tastes ......

But I digress. Back to the list. It isn't exclusively research- or even marketing-based. It's just a handful of things that have tickled us or piqued our attention this year, both inside and outside of work.

1) The 'Anti-Sugar' movement. As the year has progressed, we have seen increasing amount of clients talk to us about how they are taking pre-emptive steps to address the sugar issue. And we say more power to them; deep down, didn't everyone always know that sugar was a far greater evil than fat? Break out the Black Pudding Cobs, say I - a thought not echoed by Philip, of course.

2) The Return of Mrs Evans. We never took Jayne off the website even though we worked together less and less across 2013 and 2014. But having Jayne back on board across the last few months of 2015 has been a massive shot in the arm.

3) Being Hands-on with fieldwork. We like being at the coal face. Whilst a good whack of what we do is online, there's enough 'traditional' work in there to enable us to actually hear and see what people think, rather than worry about whether they are just filling in the survey for the sake of it.

4) Having a Costco subscription. Their Cinnamon Buns cake is so good it is evil - certainly the anti-sugar brigade (see point 1) would be livid about it. Moreover, Costco now does mini kegs of Warsteiner beer and umpteen million Germans can't be wrong, can they? (I know, I know, look at a history textbook). I never realised that I needed 200 loo rolls and a gigantic stash of bin bags.

5) Have to get a football one in there, so let's say 'I Believe in Miracles', an utterly wonderful film that made me ridiculously nostalgic for the late 70s. Anyone who compares Mourinho to Clough is miles off the mark. Klopp? Maybe - definitely closer in terms of humour. But Clough's humanity is what shines through in this film and the Archie Gemmill tale at the denouement is fabulously heart-warming. Moreover I had forgotten just how good Forest were; they would win this year's Premier League at a canter.

6) Enjoying what we do. We are very fortunate to have a handful of loyal clients who involve us in interesting and pertinent research. Looking back to the start of my research career, when my research diet was predominantly B2B (photocopiers, phones and printers), I thank the stars for the grounding but that I took a left turn into the consumer field at the turn of the century.

To all, then, we send festive greetings and best wishes for a peaceful and happy 2016. And if anyone wants any bin bags or loo rolls, come see me.

Simon, Philip, Jayne

Thoughts on turning 5

Howdo turns 5 years old later this month; tempus fugit and all that. A huge thank you to all who have helped along the way. The road has sometimes been a little bumpy, but it's generally been a lot of fun and hopefully there are some miles left to travel. A particular thanks to Mr Malivoire for his support over the last 2 years and helping to prove that two grumpy old heads are better than one.

Over the years I've been asked for advice a few times by people also looking to plough a solo furrow. Five years in, I finally feel qualified to give such advice. Aside from the obvious practical bits (get a good accountant and an IT whizz), the only 2 tidbits I'd offer:

1/ remember you're not an entrepreneur, you're self-employed. The various lists of '5 things common to an entrepreneur' should be reason enough to avoid self-aggrandising bullshit, but if they aren't then simply remember that every nipper walks before they run,

2/ clients, suppliers and colleagues are smart people. They can tell if you're not enjoying it, over-reaching or over-charging. So be honest with yourself and with them. Had a bad quarter? You'll only make it worse by trying to charge an existing client a few quid more.

Enough of the navel-gazing. Thanks again and high fives all-round from Sunny (well, it is today) Bedfordshire.

And the winner is...

Thanks to all who took part in Howdo's World Cup Predictions tournament.

Congratulations to Steph Tagg on his success. A big-hearted chap, Steph has asked for his prize to be given tom charity and so £50 will be with UNICEF soon.

Hello Again!

Today, 1st May 2014, we have finally relaunched this web site. We hope you find it useful, informative and not too shiny. Like new shoes, it may take a while to break in. Let’s hope using it doesn’t cause blisters.

It has had a ridiculously long gestation period – it was conceived when Philip joined the business in September 2012, so that’s nearly 600 days. This is almost as long as an African Elephant (645 days average), way longer than humans (266 days) and sufficient time for a pair of cats (64 days) to become an army of moggies.

We’ve been helped by many people (Ian and Mat, chiefly – thanks, guys) and hindered only by our procrastination, workloads and a recalcitrant existing domain host.  

We’ve actually gone to town a little on some methodological and case study details, as we always feel a little cheated if we look at brands we’re interested in and only get a crumb or two of info. Hopefully the view is worth the climb. Feedback always welcomed.

With fondests from Bedfordshire.


Resurfacing – 20th June 2013

Were Howdo Research a celebrity, our lack of updates and total absence of a social media presence would have seen us relegated from the 'giddy' heights of the tattle magazines down into the lower reaches of regional has-been hood. We'd be begging schools to let us open their fetes, for village fairs to let us judge their prize-winning vegetables and then award rosettes to their erstwhile parishioners. So it's a good thing, then, that celebrity has never been bestowed on us. We're much more at home with string beans than Stringfellows.

After almost two years of being away from the joys of WordPress (which seems to need more patches than someone going through the menopause and simultaneously trying to shake a long-standing Camel habit), you'd think that we'd be awash with news. You’d assume that updates would be coming out of our ears. But you'd be wrong. You see, we've just generally been getting on with it. True, a delightful man called Philip Malivoire has joined our ranks and provided much needed resource and expertise (you can read about him in the 'About Us' section), but this aside we have little to report aside from a steady diet of interesting projects and good cheer. We are easily pleased.

That said, over the coming weeks we will be having a bit of a tidy-up and this web site is at the top of the to-do list. As we approach our fourth birthday, we are aware that our kindergarten years will require an increased level of interactivity. So we'll be updating you more on some of the afore-mentioned interesting projects and generally saying 'hello' a little more often. The earth will not be shattered, Heat magazine will not be informed and, we suspect, the local paper will be unlikely to ask us to unveil a bouncy castle.

For now, then; hello again, take care and be good.

Noddy Holder has been and gone for another year – 30th December 2011

As 2011 prepares to wander off into the sunset, time for a quick update from Howdo Towers. It's been a busy couple of months: two major mystery shopping programmes have seen us travelling the length and breadth of Britan like 1980's DJs (we're in pieces for bits and piceces, apparently), whilst we've simultaneously been researching Christmas cake with the great British public, looking after the ongoing contracts and trying to remember to feed the cats.

2012 promises to be busy and fulfilling, too. So we mustn't grumble  - we save that for our other blog ''. Blessings counted, we approach 2012 with a strong chin and our shorts pulled up to our necks, thus guarding against the slings, arrows and low blows of outrageous fortune.

Wishing you all peaceful, healthy and prosperous New Years.

Moving back to Bedfordshire – 30th June 2011

Bedfordshire, bless it, is a little bit of an orphan, homeless on the regional map of Britain.

Talk to any hard-nosed Northerner and they'll call you a Southerner (with the 'softie' descriptor thrown in for full effect). Researchers - and what do they know? - lump Bedfordshire in with East Anglia, making it the runt of a litter of monster-sized counties. Many everyday folk talk of the Home Counties, forgetting that this description requires the county in question to adjoin London, which Bedfordshire doesn't. Conversely, dyed-in-the-wool smoke dwellers see us as remote, a wintry Narnia accessible not through a wardrobe but through similarly treacherous slogs up the M1 or First Capital Connect.

So what is Bedfordshire and, more importantly, how can it be mapped? As a lad growing up in Dunstable (the arse-end of the county, I'm sad to say, much though I'm fond of it), I could muddy the waters further by citing my recollections of branches of the East Midlands Building Society on the High Street. The people of Nottingham, Derby and the like - 100 miles North - would be rightfully horrified by this (me duck).

Having moved back to Bedfordshire both personally and professionally in recent years, an answer escapes me. Gun to head, I'd go with Anglia, even though the aerial gets decent reception for Carlton-LWT and Carlton-Central. And accent doesn't play a part either; after all, when you're an hour from The Smoke and two from Yorkshire there are few consistencies particularly when the afore-mentioned whacking great motorways and train-lines make a patchwork of the local countryside.

So come on, you tell us. Answers on a postcard - just don't put a region on it!

Break out the cake – we are two today – 24th August 2011

It's staggering how time flies. Can it really be two years since I bade farewell to a (semi-)corporate life, stumbled into NatWest, told them of my plans over coffee and started the ball rolling? My diary suggests it is.

Anyone reading this can share a virtual slice of birthday cake with us - oh yes, it's off to the bakers this lunchtime to get a treat in. Something gooey, sickly and unhealthy will do just nicely.

Being an Englishman of the stiff upper lip variety, I don't do gushing luvvie thank yous, but there are whole host of people to whom I am very grateful; clients, suppliers, accountants, IT wizards, staff, friends and family. Gracias, danke schoen, merci beaucoup and ta very much.

Now, like any good two year-old, I shall toddle off into my playroom, cake smeared around my chops and barley water slopping out of my Tommy Tippee. If you'll forgive me, I have a tractor to play with....

As rare as hen’s teeth... - 4th June 2011

How are you? It's been ages. My fault entirely, the time just flew by and before I knew it a year had passed.

Pleasantries over, time to update on a few things:

* New offices! We've relocated up to Sunny (well, it is today) Bedfordshire. New address can be found on our contact page and our phone number is shown throughout.

* New clients! When you set up a small business, the most gratifying thing is retaining clients. A very narrow distance behind this is getting new ones on board and we're delighted to have netted a handful of lovely new clients in the past year.

* New staff! Mike Friend joined us in June 2011 as a Senior Consultant. Read more about Senor MikeyBoy (as he is affectionately known, usually sung to the tune of 'Brown Girl in the Ring') on the 'About Us' section. He looks like a sugar in a plum (plum plum).

Finally, in lieu of a Twitter account (if anyone wants to hear about me making a pot of coffee, trying to find the cat and reposting other people's ideas, then bless you, but you'll surely have better things to do), I hereby promise to update this blog more frequently.

Mind how you go.