It’s unlikely that when a 30-something James David ‘Dave’ Power III founded J.D Power and Associates from his kitchen table in 1968 with the help of his wife Julie. J.D. Power and Associates is today a global marketing information services company operating in key business sectors across a variety of industries, providing customer satisfaction research, market research, automotive forecasting, social media research, and performance improvement programs.
In his early years, Power was a market researcher for automotive behemoths like General Motors and Ford. According to Wharton’s alumni magazine, Power spotted a flaw in the mid-60’s in the way chainsaw maker McCulloch Motors was predicting sales – “I said, ‘You don’t sell to trees, you sell to people,’” Power told McCullough executives. Power’s research also showed that the saws needed to be smaller, less expensive, and able to tolerate long periods of idleness. McCulloch listened, and sales took off.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked James David ‘Dave’ Power III, founder of J.D. Power and Associates, to what he attributes the success of the company.
Power: When I started JDPA, my background in Detroit helped. I saw opportunities to serve the auto industry in broader ways. Challenges made me adapt, and that led to new opportunities.
AI: Do the lessons laid out in your new book apply beyond the auto industry?
Power: I certainly think so. Listening to the customer’s voice is critical to any business.
AI: For those who have followed the ups and downs of the auto industry, is there be anything new for them in the book?
Power: Well, there is the old saying; those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. Many of the newer generations of automotive people may not know exactly where the industry ran into trouble in the past. I also think people may not really know my story, how J.D. Power and Associates started and how we grew and developed. For the older generations I am sure that there are stories and experiences that they will find familiar and hearing my take on things may add to their understanding – or at least give us something to debate over a cocktail.
AI: Where is the auto industry heading?
Power: The customer is really in the driver’s seat and this shift has reverberated back through the system: dealers are more focused on the customer; the manufacturers are more focused on the customer; and suppliers are doing what they can to focus more on the customer. I do see product quality improving but shifting more to how well things work. I think that the retail side of the business is still evolving.
Automotive Industries asked Dave Powers’ son, James David ‘Jamey’ Power IV, and asked to what he attributes the success of J.D Power – the man and the organization.
Power IV: Focusing an industry (and subsequently many other industries) on the customer and making the customer’s voice a legitimate and real part of business strategies and operations. Whether it is your car, a restaurant experience, your wireless phone provider, or a hotel, customers are asked every day what they think. These businesses are using the information to guide their operations, their products, their management decisions and strategies. Customers appreciate this “right” to rate and comment.
AI: What lessons does the book give about starting and running a business? Power: Go with your instincts. Adapt and change. Keep a good perspective on things and don’t be fooled by short-term goals. Hire good people, inspire them and let them do great things.