Inspire Series: Research Guru Grant Farnsworth

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    September 23, 2021

Inspire Series: Research Guru Grant Farnsworth


Launched in 2018 to tell stories behind the talent at Wray Ward, today, the Inspire series captures intimate portraits of industry influencers and thought leaders whose ideas and passion are fueling innovation in the home and building category.

Recently, we spoke with Susan Robertson, an instructor on innovation and applied creativity at Harvard, and Erin Gallagher, chief of insights at the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence. Now, meet Grant Farnsworth, president of The Farnsworth Group and managing partner of the Home Improvement Research Institute. He’s also a member of Wray Ward’s Cul-de-Sac, an advisory panel of thought leaders across building, interior design, marketing and media, and innovation.

Grant last appeared on our blog for an update on the smart-home market. This time, we wanted to dig deeper into the thought leader’s passions (professional and personal), his sources of inspiration and his outlook on the fast-moving, always-changing home improvement industry.

Since joining The Farnsworth Group (becoming president in 2021), Grant has helped catalyze deep category knowledge and research for leading home improvement brands, including Huber Engineered Woods, KOHLER, Lowe’s and more. He’s also a frequent speaker at industry events and forums, discussing customer, brand, channel and marketing behaviors and trends affecting the industry. During this week’s HIRI Summit, for example, Grant shared trends in contractor supplier behaviors that influence building products today.

Hear firsthand how growing up in the industry fueled Grant’s passion for serving leading manufacturers and building material companies.

Q: How did you get your start?

A: I grew up in Indianapolis and started working for The Farnsworth Group as a teenager. At the time, I was doing what some might call monotonous or grunt work, but it was really important: coding and proofing surveys and tabulating data, and making sure it was organized correctly for the analysts to draw insights. From there, I went to Indiana University. While in college, I built The Farnsworth Group’s first website while also working on some of the firm’s marketing materials.

After college, I didn’t immediately work for the company. Instead, I wanted to go out and get my own experience, relying on my expertise and contributing independent of my last name. So, I did some consulting and sales work for a couple of years before coming back to The Farnsworth Group. Not long after rejoining the company, I took a lead role in business development.

Q: What was it like growing up around home improvement? What kind of perspective did it give you?

A: Contributing to the company at an early age taught me the value of understanding all aspects of the business and the value we bring to clients. At the same time, it gave me an appreciation and respect for my colleagues — understanding that every role and every piece is critical to delivering the best possible insights.

Q: Growing up in the business, you’ve been able to see the industry grow, evolve and change — from recessions to economic booms to a pandemic. What’s it like having a front-row seat?

A: Yeah, it’s interesting. I hadn’t truly put it all together until the last recession and COVID-19. When I was growing up, big moments seemed more like isolated events. I used to think, “Oh my gosh, this has never happened before, and it’s never going to happen again.” But now, having been around the industry for a little while, I’ve realized, “Nope, this stuff happens.”

My sense of optimism is one of the biggest things I’ve learned from our firm: grounding that lets me know we’ll be OK, we’ve gotten through hard things before and we’ll get through them again. They’re part of construction and home improvement, just like they’re part of life.

Q: What do you enjoy about working with the people in home improvement?

A: They’re good people. They’re rational, kind, understanding and down-to-earth. They have a certain level of humility and humanity, which makes spending time with them enjoyable. Plus, there aren’t a lot of egos (in this business). And of course, we all share at least one passion: building products.

Q: What are you passionate about outside of the office?

A: I love outdoor activities like hiking and snowboarding, especially living in Denver. I also love to travel. My wife and I are passionate about new cultures and, pre-COVID, we tried to get out of the country two to three times a year.

Music is another passion. It’s such a critical part of both of our lives: playing it, listening to it, going to it; anything to do with music is always enjoyable.

Q: What inspires you about the future?

A: I truly have my best weeks whenever I get to see my coworkers and colleagues shine. I get excited when their efforts are recognized or appreciated, and I love it when our clients come back and give unprompted shout-outs to my colleagues and our firm.

I’m excited for more of that in the future: elevating our clients and the individuals in our firm for the great work they’re doing. I love this industry and I love research, but more importantly, I love the people. I can’t wait to watch the continued growth of not only our firm but also our staff and the clients we support. Because the better we get at our jobs, the better output we’ll deliver and the more we’ll help the building and home improvement industry.

Thanks to our partner and friend for participating in Wray Ward’s Inspire series and the Cul-de-Sac advisory panel. Stay tuned for more stories about people who, like Grant, are making their mark on the home and building category.

The Cul-de-Sac is an engine for proprietary, provocative research and thought leadership topics. Interested in getting involved? Contact me.

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