Jan Kestle is Founder and President of Environics Analytics and has been a leader in the marketing information industry for more than forty years. Jan has used her expertise in using statistics and mathematics to solve numerous business challenges for many companies in North America and abroad. When not using analytics to improve a company’s business, Jan makes keynote speeches, sharing her knowledge with many. Today, Jan discusses her success as an entrepreneur and where lies the future for Environics Analytics.
You founded Environics Analytics in 2003 and it has grown to be Canada’s premiere marketing and analytical company. Your staff includes experienced geo-demographers, modelling statisticians and marketing experts. Could you run us through the science of what your company does?
We work with banks, retailers, not-for-profits, insurance, travel companies, and government organizations. What that means is we take data that organizations have on their customers or audiences and do an analysis using their demographics and lifestyle information to say, ‘well you know you really have four or five different types of constituents here.’ Then we help these organizations understand more about those people.
You were a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award (2017). How did it feel to be recognized with this accolade?
Well, my success has been due to the fact that I do something I love. I’ve been able to build a great company, with a lot of really good partners and staff, and we’re providing businesses and organizations with something they need. I’m happy when I get recognized because it really validates what we’re doing as a business. I accepted the recognition for the team.
What differentiates your company from the competition, and what is the model or mission statement that you lead your company by?
Our mission statement is to make people’s lives better and our clients more successful by using transformative data and analytics. We really think that with all the data and tools available in this era, we can run cities better, and provide better healthcare services. From a marketing point of view, if a company understands me, my life, lifestyle, and concerns… it will make my life as a citizen better. Also, there is so much pressure in business and there’s restraint and resource constraint. So, if we can help analysts do more work in terms of analysing the company, rather than having to spend all their time gathering data, that makes their lives easier.
We try to put together the best of big databases, and tools that have further methodologies to manipulate the data and get answers. We put those two things together with expertise in different industries and business challenges so that the analytics can be done, measured, implemented and can really make organizations more productive and profitable. That’s what differentiates us from the competition because there are firms that provide data, sell software, or only offer consultancy services. But we have a unique positioning—we have the best comprehensive dataset in Canada, tools and methodologies that enable people to use data to answer real world questions, a staff of about 170 people who have the expertise to analyse these kinds of data and we can give our clients an integrated approach.
You have made it to the top of a field dominated by men. Do you have a piece of advice for other women who might still be struggling in a largely male sector?
Well, it’s changing. I graduated with an applied math degree in a class of 150, which had four women. You know, women younger than me probably just don’t want to hear about it, but even now it is still hard to get a job in what is perceived to be a male dominated field.
I’m not naïve, we haven’t cracked that proverbial glass ceiling. But what really is important to the women who want to lead is to be themselves and not to make the mistake of thinking that they have to adopt the style of a man. There is a lot of recognition now that men and women bring different kinds of thought processes and leadership roles to the marketplace; the reality is we need both and that we get a lot of strength from having both in our organizations.
I really think we have gotten much closer to gender equality. And the millennial generation and younger generations don’t see it as much as an issue because they truly do have respect for women, so it’s not as bad as it was in the good old days. There’s a lot more recognition of the value of men and women in the workplace than there was 30 years ago.
At a professional level, who has inspired you?
I’ve been trained by Chris Buehler, the first person I worked for in the private sector. He was a fantastic sales leader, who held the point of the view that the customer is always right, and you must integrate a lot of your ethics into working with them.
Where do you see Environics Analytics in 10 years? What are the company’s long-term plans?
The outside world is changing. If you look at the core of our business, which is understanding consumers in order to help brands engage and market to them better, some of the issues are around locating and visiting sites to open stores and bank branches. Everyone thinks they’re going to go away, but they still seem to be there. Everything is changing in the outside world in terms of engagement, the way we shop and conduct our lives.
The number one thing is staying true to what’s happening out there and making sure that the kind of analytical service that we provide for marketers are consistent with what’s changing in the outside world. We have to make sure that our products are always moving forward and interacting with other kinds of marketing technology that are advancing. And really, the key way to do that, is to be in a partnership. We don’t want to be all things to all people, so we work with IBM and a consulting firm, like McKinsney & Company.
In the next 10 years, it’s going to be more important to figure out how to be part of that big analytics ecosystem rather than just trying to be the organization that does it all.
S.King | Contributing Writer