The Incentive Research Foundation's FRANK KATUSAK is one of the most respected names in incentive industry research. And for good reason: The IRF's studies on incentive spending and effectiveness are used extensively by industry professionals, even the media. During the AIG scandal and subsequent Congressional hearings, he saw record-breaking downloads of the research (available free at www.TheIRF.org).
Editor Barbara Scofidio recently spoke with him in his New York office.
Corporate Meetings & Incentives: How long have you been in the industry?
Katusak: I've been involved in the industry and with the Foundation for 10 years. Before that, I worked for the American Institute of CPAs as director of planning and research, and then as corporate secretary. I also worked for the National Association of Realtors, where I began as statistician and became vice president of research. Before that, many years ago, I was a professor at the university level and taught statistics and economics. It was at NAR that I had one of the proudest accomplishments: I created the Existing Home Sales statistics, which today is one of the key leading economic indicators.
CMI: Statistics make most people queasy. What is it you like about it?
Katusak: Surveys are what I love; they're pragmatic. You can put a lot of the IRF research on your desk and actually use it in your career. And much of our research is timeless, such as the Master Measurement Model of Employee Performance.
CMI: Where does the IRF get research ideas?
Katusak: First and foremost, we rely on Rodger Stotz, IRF's chief research officer, and Bob Dawson, chair of the research committee, as well as committee members, to identify research topics and produce the research studies. Suggestions also come from trustees on our board, the roundtables at our annual invitational, and academicians and industry groups.
CMI: This has been a trying year for the incentive industry. Can you talk about how the IRF served the industry during this time?
Katusak: We had a lot of discussion at the time of AIG and Wells Fargo, and we concluded that what we should do is what we do best and that is to produce credible, objective research. For example, Rodger Stotz wrote a white paper titled “The ‘Evidence-Based’ Case for Incentives,” which, based on several IRF studies, sorted out the facts on the value and appropriate use of incentives and incentive travel in today's marketplace. And we saw our studies being referenced in company press releases to substantiate the business results that incentives produce.
CMI: What do you think the industry should do next to repair the damage that's been done?
Katusak: Education is the key. The industry needs to continue to show how incentives and incentive travel improve business performance. The U.S. Travel Association needs to continue its good work, and I think the Incentive Federation will play a key role. We're involved in that group. It will be holding a seminar to educate members of Congress and their staffs about the industry and its importance to the economy. That's the kind of thing that has to be done because all of this grew out of a lack of knowledge about incentives as a business tool.
CMI: What surveys/studies are coming up?
Katusak: Our next major study will be “Anatomy of an Incentive Travel Program,” which will include an attempt at measuring the economic impact on the community in which the program is held. That's going to be very exciting.
CMI: Have you considered doing instantaneous kinds of research, or changes to the way you deliver your research?
Katusak: We're considering webinars as an effective way of delivering our research and we are also looking into doing polling at next year's invitational roundtables. We can do polling right at the event and immediately report the results overall and according to various characteristics.