13 Feb

A pleased CEO thanks us for some helpful insight

One of our clients is a clinical stage medical technology company that is racing against several competitors to develop technology designed to restore functionality in patients with severe paralysis. This week, the CEO sent an email to one of our senior analysts thanking her for some helpful insight that was included in this week’s competitive update. (Apologies for the lack of detail here….this is a very competitive space and we are dedicated to supporting the confidentiality and success of our clients.)  

16 Feb

Understanding Your Startup’s Competition

Earlier this month, we hosted a webinar with The University of Minnesota Venture Center. Line of Sight’s Steve Schulz and Teresa Muckala discuss how understanding the competition is a critical competency for any business and share some key tips on how to succeed at it.

View the Webinar to learn:

  • How competitive intelligence experts define competitors
  • Where to find information on your competitors
  • How to analyze and take action based on the intelligence
  • How to use this information in a business plan



07 Jun

SCIP Intellicon 2022

Looking back at SCIP Intellicon 2022, it was an amazing event in so many ways. We enjoyed having the Intelligence community and our team back together in person to celebrate and talk shop. The Line of Sight team gathered early in Minneapolis, kicking the week off cheering the Minnesota Twins to victory. We even successfully turned our partners from Sweden, Comintelli, into Twin’s fans for life.

Line of Sight was honored to be a SCIP Intellicon Bronze Sponsor, exhibiting and meeting so many wonderful people throughout the three-day event. We are truly grateful and proud of our team and the connections that were made!

It’s always interesting to attend events, watch trends and compare the Intelligence function of today to when we started Line of Sight 20 years ago.

When I first started this business, there was a lot of focus on “gathering info and data.” Who is the competition? What, how and where are they selling and competing, etc? That’s what companies wanted – repositories of information on their industry and competition. Although deep data collection is a necessity, data alone isn’t truly useful.

Over the years, there has become a significant maturation and organizational value placed on taking data collection further, one step at a time – triangulating and analyzing the data into digestible, actionable insights. This is what gives leadership the vision and “line-of-sight” into the critical issues impacting their business and the confidence to make the right bets and moves – ahead of the competition.

With this evolution, we are seeing people from all functions of an organization get involved and play a key role in helping form or digest these insights to contribute to the overall strategy. And with this, there is certainly a greater acceptance that data gathering (and the people who do it) is a valuable investment. The Intelligence function is now often seen as a critical business function within organizations.

During Intellicon 2022, we had the opportunity to connect with many attendees about how Line of Sight can help an organization’s intelligence needs. From our Strategic Intelligence Program to Competitive and Industry Analysis, Line of Sight customizes programs to support resource-strapped strategy executives and intelligence teams that have different needs and budgets. Please reach out to us to learn more!

Our team looks forward to continuing to evolve and partner with the intelligence community. We had a great time connecting with everyone at SCIP Intellicon! Until next year…

25 Apr

Celebrating with the Twins for the Win!

Our team gathered this week to celebrate our 20 years in business. We kicked it off watching the Twins win in a 10th inning walk-off. Go Buxton! Thank you to our partners at Comintelli for joining us!

Next up: SCIP Intellicon conference. Visit us at booth 308! https://www.scip.org/page/SCIP-IntelliCon2022-Competitive-Intelligence-Conference

26 Jan

Our 20th Anniversary: Reflecting back

It seems like yesterday when I started Line of Sight…how quickly 20 years have gone! As I sit here and reflect, I can’t help but think “wow do I have a lot to be thankful for!” From the people with whom I crossed paths early on and came with me on this journey, to those who joined in partnership later I am so thankful.

How it all began.

When I was working for Optum I was constantly fighting the push and pull of staying with the security of a large, dynamic organization or jumping off full time into my own gig. During this time, I had several former colleagues and contacts requesting my consultation on various market intelligence projects. Most notable, and when I really got serious about hanging out my shingle, was the frequent requests from Rick E, a former colleague at Deluxe who had moved to another company as CFO. His new company was losing deals they had previously won, and he needed help setting up the capability to objectively monitor and analyze the company’s external environment to make better strategic decisions.

The opportunity to partner with past colleagues and a breadth of great companies was really enticing. But most important, my wife Linda was on board. Without her support and good job with a financial services firm and an excellent health insurance plan, Line of Sight would have never happened. (Which speaks to our antiquated employer-based health care system, but I’ll keep my opinions to myself). 

Everything was aligning! Even Paul K, my manager at Optum, reluctantly but kindly supported me when I ultimately decided to make the jump.

The name.

It came together one early morning on a walk with my dog Pita, a black and white spotted German Shorthair Pointer with amazing energy who kept me in shape and cleared my mind during long walks. On this particular walk I recalled a moment from a few years earlier, where I had been invited to participate in a process innovation project for Deluxe. A small team went offsite to dream up ways to improve a critical sales process. The amazing group facilitator, Joe P, had used the phrase “line of sight” so often in his conversation and instructions to us, that it stuck with me. One process step must always have “line of sight” to the next, he would say. The process should be designed so that the people involved would always have “line of sight” to its purpose and objectives. On that late winter morning, the phrase came back into my head, and after some quick research, that was that and Line of Sight Group was born.

The product.

Early on, the focal point of our offering was a market intelligence software. This was early in the development of cloud computing, but I wanted nothing to do with on-premises applications. Paul E, a former Cray Computer guy, was my guru and introduced me to IT people who could make it happen. Selling a cloud solution to large corporations in the early 2000s was not easy. It was new and raised many concerns for the IT folks, but the business leaders saw the many advantages and helped to push those early sales through.

The service side of our business doing market/competitive/industry intelligence and analysis was also growing and would eventually overtake the software side. I needed help!

The team.

Jennifer Loehr, a trained journalist, came on board early on and has developed into a strong project manager, leading our longest running client engagement. She celebrates 15 years with Line of Sight this year.

Sara Bartholomew joined shortly after. Sara and I had worked together in a market research/corporate strategy group at Deluxe several years earlier and my call to her was timely as she said, “my kids are getting older, and I need something to do!” She brought journalism and MBA degrees and 15 years later she is the voice of reason that keeps us on keel.

With Jen and Sara as anchors, we enlisted several people over the years.

Jennifer Waffensmith had strong experience in mystery shopping and leveraged that experience with the ability to fearlessly interview almost any subject matter expert. After five years of working with our clients, one client calls her “an amazing sleuth.”

Erin Andersland joined us from Target Corp. five years ago and leveraged her MLIS degree and corporate research experience to lead several ongoing client programs and is our ‘go-to’ for hard-to-find secondary research.

Kristi Dale brought her journalism degree, marketing communications and medical journal editing experience to lead several of our health care programs for the last five years.

Teresa Muckala was a long-time friend, having co-managed the local SCIP chapter with me for several years. She also brought a journalism degree and rich experience in medical devices and health care and celebrates four years with Line of Sight Group this year.

(In case you are counting, that is a combined total of 69 years of service to our clients, including me, not counting previous or related experience.)

Wayne Lund joined us as CFO through a referral from Roy O. Roy is the former CEO of a mid-sized organization who graciously acts as a mentor for me over quarterly breakfasts and was referred by Paul E (see above). Our healthy balance sheet is due to Wayne’s oversight and guidance. I worked with Kim Geiser at Optum and am grateful that she agreed to lead our marketing efforts. Several others including Keisha, Sonal, Vivian, Jane and others step in as needed. Still others have joined us and since moved on to other opportunities but have had such a positive impact on our business.

Partnerships with other research organizations have also been an important part of Line of Sight. Doug at the Hedlund Group helps us when clients need help turning the insights we deliver into executable strategy steps. Christen B and David E worked with us to transition our clients to the Intelligence2day market intelligence platform when the opportunity presented itself to provide more features and value to our clients.        

Our growth and gratitude.

I had learned early on in my career from Karen K, my boss when I was with the Deluxe Sales force, to never burn bridges. Besides Deluxe and UnitedHealth/Optum, I had also worked at Jostens doing similar work in market research/competitive intelligence/strategy, and those relationships were vital to getting the business off the ground. From there we grew mainly through referrals and word of mouth. Bill P, former Optum CEO, graciously made several introductions. Cynthia B connected us with several business leaders. Others brought us along with them when they transitioned to new employers. Through the years, our clients, some of whom are among the most respected brands in the world, have trusted us with their deepest vulnerabilities and some of their most sensitive and strategic challenges. And they have given us the opportunity to do very interesting and creative work, and partner with them to solve their challenges. But most importantly it is the individuals, the amazing people within the organizations who have made it all worthwhile.

In the end, while we have in place the right skills, processes, tools and culture to be successful, 20 years in business with Line of Sight is about people – the people who have influenced me and leant their advice, those who have worked with me to serve our clients or with whom I’ve partnered, and those who have trusted us with their business. For all of them, and many not mentioned here, I am truly grateful.

02 Dec

Grateful for You!

As we celebrate 20 years in business this holiday season, our thoughts turn to those who helped shape our business over the years.

We have accomplished amazing things together and we are incredibly thankful for your partnership – either now or in the past. Attached is a card to say thank you!

In the spirit of giving, Line of Sight Group is making a donation in your company’s name to Urban Roots, a Saint Paul organization whose mission is to cultivate and empower youth through nature, healthy food and community.

Sincerely, Steve, Sara, Jen, Jennifer, Erin, Kristi, Teresa, Wayne and all of our associates including Kim, Keisha, Jane, Sonal, Vivian, Allie, Jordan, Emma, and others.

Line of Sight Group




Celebrating 20 years of business in 2022!

03 Nov

Exploring the Breadth of Intelligence Program Applications

One of the changes we’ve observed since 2020 and the emergence of the COVID pandemic has been an increase in demand from business organizations for ways to systematically monitor and act on changes in their external environment (i.e. markets, competition and change drivers).

While the onslaught of the pandemic was, of course, an extreme disruptor, it seems that it has helped organizations realize that many aspects of their world are outside of their control. For example, customer and competitor behavior can be both un-knowable and un-controllable. Instead, successful organizations manage this risk category by systematically monitoring important changes, evaluating leading indicators, and adjusting their strategies as necessary.

Our ‘Strategic Intelligence Program’ solution has three primary elements: 1) monitoring of open sources such as industry press, websites, business filings, etc. 2) a shared, cloud-based repository where market and industry ‘observations’ are compiled, organized and analyzed, and 3) a variety of reporting options such as alerts and summaries to disseminate objective insight.  

Conceptually, the business organizations we work with apply this capability in a similar way. Starting with how they want to define their market landscape, they watch for data points that represent indicators of potential change that would impact their business and then prioritize those for deeper investigation leading to potential strategic shifts. However, while the basic concept is the same, we see it applied in many different and creative ways to get the most out of their programs.

Here’s just a peek at some of that range of application:

  • Competitor tracking. Some companies focus very narrowly on a small set of competitors with an interest in a deep understanding of their competing businesses. They might be interested in specific operations or product details, or sales and marketing capabilities, or key personnel and have a very specific plan for how they will act on the information. 
  • General competitor and industry tracking. This application involves watching broadly across the entire industry for competitive and change drivers that may impact the business. Because the scope is so broad, usually these companies prioritize the competition using different levels (e.g. A, B and C competitors) and identify other priorities as ‘key topics’ to best allocate time and resources.
  • Defensive intelligence to maintain a leadership position. Some companies are already the market leader but face new competition from market entrants. They wish to maintain that leadership position and use the intelligence findings to develop advertising campaigns or new product enhancements that will disrupt the competition and erect mobility barriers to maintain their lead.
  • Growth related intelligence to enable partnerships or M&A. These companies have chosen partnerships or mergers and acquisitions as their primary growth vehicles and apply their intelligence resources toward scouting for acquisition targets, keeping an eye on similar activity by their competitors and industry change opportunities that open new opportunities.  
  • Innovation. These businesses are in industries where growth is achieved through innovation related to products, customer experience, services and even business models. In the case of one of our clients, changes in information technology are enabling an entirely new set of competitors with different business and operating models to gain a foothold. We closely watch both the legacy space and the emerging competition to help the company identify and prioritize innovation opportunities that will maintain its market leading position. Another client is 3+ years out from product launch. We help them understand where the future industry, technologies and markets will be as they develop out the product.
  • Growth though sales support. Some programs are focused on supporting their B-to-B sales teams. They can be focused on competitors, on customers and markets or on both.
  • Competitive pricing intelligence. In this industry, consumer pricing and terms change constantly. We assist this company to systematically capture those changes in price so that they can arm their sales force and target channel intermediaries to gain new business.
  • COVID intelligence. This company in the health services industry is highly impacted by the COVID pandemic. It uses our intelligence to understand the effects of the pandemic on its customer base, making marketing and operations decisions based on it.  
  • New market development. This U.S. based company was looking at international markets as its primary arena for growth. Looking broadly at selected Asian and European markets, our intelligence enabled them to identify underserved segments and market entry points.       
  • Account management intelligence. This company offers its services to large and mid-sized businesses in selected industries and maintains ongoing relationships with them. In this case, our intelligence is used by account managers to stay abreast of strategic changes in their clients to provide communication and outreach opportunities and to identify sales opportunities and deepen sales relationships. 
  • Ad Tracking. This large banking company wants to understand the positioning messages of its competition when advertising to business customers. We compile banner, video and other ad types from various sources, and then use AI and text analytics to tell the story for the client’s marketing and advertising teams.
  • Advisory board intelligence. Another company maintains several advisory boards consisting of industry thought leaders and entrepreneurs. Our intelligence efforts here provide insight into the activities of these leaders to help our client prepare for board meetings and maintain communications.
  • Alumni intelligence. This higher education company asks us to track a set of high-net worth individuals, and uses the insights to deepen relationships for fund raising purposes.     

Over the 20 years that we’ve been doing it, market and competitive intelligence has evolved from a little-known and little-understood back-office secret into a nuts-and-bolts discipline that helps form the foundation of every agile and successful business from small to large. These examples illustrate how firms are becoming more mature in their application of market intelligence capabilities by focusing them in ways that directly impact their business model and provide maximum ROI.

Line of Sight Group can help you build an intelligence program unique to your business needs. Contact us for more information!