Rick West – CEO and Co-Founder of Field Agent

[quote style=”boxed”]I am an early riser, so once I’m up, I exercise and have quiet time in the morning. When I arrive to work, I meet with our team, as needed, to eliminate barriers. From there, I set the company’s strategic direction, roll up my sleeves, and get to work.[/quote]

Rick West is the CEO of Field Agent, a mobile research company that crowdsources a pool of more than 240,000 agents to perform audits and collect market intelligence. These agents can collect information from retail stores or their homes, or they can act as mystery shoppers to provide market research across the country. Previously, Rick worked for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati where he served in various roles within finance, systems, and customer business development. Rick’s experience with P&G has spanned from the United States to Hong Kong to Thailand, where he worked with Wal-Mart and other global customer teams.

He has been married for 27 years to his wife, Kim, and has three children. In his spare time, he loves to watch Kentucky basketball and play golf.

What are you working on right now?

My passion is telling our story, sharing how Field Agent is changing the way the world collects information. While our story has typically focused on consumer products companies (e.g., Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and Coty) and retailers, I am now spending my time crafting new case studies as we expand into different verticals, such as quick-service restaurants (QSR) and marketing and research agencies.

Where did the idea for Field Agent come from?

Having previously worked for Procter & Gamble, we formed a shopper research company in 2001 to meet the needs of consumer product goods (CPG) companies. In 2009 we set out to solve an industry-wide research problem: How can businesses get location-specific data (i.e., from a retail store or home) that is accurate, cost-effective, and available in real time?

We simply set out to change the way the world collects information. We did this by crowdsourcing shoppers who use smartphone technology to deliver a breakthrough approach on gathering location-specific data. This new approach was the first of its kind and was significantly different from the current options available. These options often require a high cost in labor along with extensive lead times to deliver shopper-specific data from retail/home locations.

During our research, we realized we could solve another pressing issue for users of iPhone apps: How can we help provide real income to our crowdsourced shoppers in the form of cash in lieu of the traditional “points and badges” other apps provide? This is why we coined the term, “The first app that pays you.” We were the first app in the iTunes Store that paid users cash for completing tasks.

What does your typical day look like?

I am an early riser, so once I’m up, I exercise and have quiet time in the morning. When I arrive to work, I meet with our team, as needed, to eliminate barriers. From there, I set the company’s strategic direction, roll up my sleeves, and get to work. Essentially, I am charged with sharing our story to the masses.

Once I head home, I have dinner with the family and help my kids with their homework. Full disclosure: I usually do complete a bit of Field Agent work late at night.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I am a storyteller. Never underestimate the power of a parable or a good story.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I am excited about the disruption of the financial “status quo.” Square, Dwolla, and Google Wallet are changing the way businesses and individuals are engaging financially.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I was a paperboy. What was most frustrating about the job was the realization that no matter how much I wanted to make a change to the job or suggest something new, it was still the exact same task everyday — fold and throw papers on doorsteps. However, the silver lining was gaining the valuable character trait of being dependable and on time.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would have started earlier in my career. While my time at P&G was indispensable, I would have started my entrepreneurial career a few years earlier.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Be clear and concise with your “why,” and keep this in front of your team and your customers!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think there is merit in building a better, kid-friendly, device-charging station for a car. With just a bit of ingenuity, you could design a way to keep up to five devices charged and operational without separate chargers. The types I have seen appear to be poorly manufactured and frankly are not something I would want in my car — I’m just being honest.

Tell us a secret.

In today’s world, there are no secrets. But there was a time when I pulled the fire alarm in the gym back in high school….

What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?

1) Dropbox: All of my data is available on any device at anytime, and I can share data with the team (which is simply smart to do).
2) Mint: This allows me to have my personal and business finances in one place (required).
3) Flipboard: I can read and get up to speed on news, social media, etc., in one app (a big timesaver).

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Conscious Capitalism” by John Mackey (founder and CEO of Whole Foods) is my recommendation. He has a great view on how business can and should run profitably while taking into consideration the impact a company can have on others, an industry, and the world that we live in.

What’s on your playlist?

Classic rock (The Eagles), country (Brad Paisley), and folk rock (Mumford and Sons).

If you weren’t working on Field Agent what would you be doing?

I’d be teaching/coaching (14- to 21-year-olds) in business and life.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

Guy Kawasaki: He has a great perspective on the entrepreneurial tech world that we live in today. Also, he’s a passionate guy about what he believes in.
Pete Cashmore: He wades through the clutter and pushes out information on technology and products that are changing the way we live today and will be living tomorrow.
Dick Vitale: Dickie V is great entertainment for the sports nut and people who just love listening to someone who is passionate about what he does.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

“Duck Dynasty” – This show makes me laugh every Wednesday night. Uncle Si is a riot. You know what I mean, Jack?

Who is your hero?

This is not a copout, but I honestly do not have one. In different stages of my life, many different people influenced me. As a teenager, my Sunday school teacher, Virgil Lockard, was the person I looked up to. He was the only man of faith my dad said I should listen to. That meant a lot, especially coming from my dad.

In my early professional career, I admired John Pepper, CEO of P&G. He was a leader who inspired those around him to be better. No one questioned his integrity and concern for the individual, and it was often imitated.

As an entrepreneur, Lee Yih, the president of Layman’s Foundation, has proven to be inspirational in my life. Lee understands the integration of faith at work and how to be razor-sharp in your focus, as well as how to leave a legacy.

Do entrepreneurs need business partners?

Yes – it is important to have someone you can trust implicitly and will hold you accountable when no one else can. This may or may not mean the person is active in your day-to-day business. He may not even be an owner in the business. However, when it comes to the major decisions or choices you have to make, you want someone by your side that will have your best interests at heart.

Do you have this thing called “balance” between work and your personal life?

We live in a world that is inherently balanced. If we were to fall off one degree, whether it was the moon, the earth, the tide, the sun, etc., we would not exist. This dynamic holds true with our lives as well. Without a balance of work (what we do) and life (who we are), there will be conflict, one impacting the other until the point of which both fail.


Rick West on Twitter: @rickwest01
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Field Agent on Twitter: @fieldagentapp