Q&A with 2023 Lifetime Achievement Winner, Steve Schlesinger  

Editor’s note: Steve Schlesinger is the winner of the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award, a category in the Marketing Research and Insight Excellence Awards. The award winners were announced during a virtual celebration on November 14, 2023. To learn more about the awards go to https://www.quirksawards.com/  

Steve Schlesinger, executive chairman, Sago, was named the winner of the 2023 Lifetime Achievement award on November 13, 2023.  

Schlesinger has been in the industry for over 35 years, making many contributions to the industry. These include co-founding and continuously supporting the QRCA Young Professionals Grant and the IA CEO Summit, serving on the SampleCon board, acting as Chair of the Market Research Education Foundation and his inaugural membership of the IA iDEATor Apprentice Program. He’s been designated as an IA Laureate and an Honorary Lifetime Member in recognition of his contributions to the insights community. 

“It has been a wonderful journey I have been on for the past three plus decades,” Schlesinger said. “The part that will always stay with me is the deep, meaningful relationships and friendships I have developed over all these years. Colleagues, teammates, clients – they have all enriched my life and for that I will always be extremely grateful.” 

Find out more about Schlesinger's career below in this Q&A with him on his achievements.  

Describe a time you had to step out of your comfort zone. 

This happens often when leading an organization.  

The one that stands out was moving on from my role as CEO to executive chairman. I was the CEO for over 25 years, and it was time for the next leader, Reed Cundiff, to run the business. This was a moment where I had to really lean into the change, watch my behaviors carefully to not send any mixed messages to the broader team and embrace Reed’s style of leadership and decision making.  

I committed myself to waking up every day, being the best support system I could be to Reed and the business and ensuring that my ego never got in the way.  

I believe it has worked out well and I am enjoying watching Reed and the entire leadership team lead the business forward.

What advice would you have for the younger you? 

Stay true to your values, be a good listener, embrace and seek out diverse opinions. Commit to decisions and, if they don’t work out, learn from those decisions and move on. 

What has been your biggest career achievement so far?  

It’s hard to pick one, so I will answer with a general achievement of taking a relatively small business to a large business [in the marketing research industry] over three decades. We’ve maintained the same core principle of adding value to the business every year for our team, our clients and our shareholders.