A customer survey pioneer and homegrown entrepreneur
Dave Power has forged a legendary path as the mind behind the analytical approach to customer satisfaction – which is now the industry standard.
Power’s success didn’t come overnight: it took him years just to find his place in the industry. After serving four years in the Coast Guard and graduating from the prestigious Wharton School of Business, Power was hired by Ford as a financial analyst in 1959. Quickly realizing he wanted a career more in line with his interests, he joined a firm that was doing customer research for General Motors. A self-starter from the beginning, overflowing with his own ideas about research and customer satisfaction, he moved through several consultant positions, ultimately resolving to start his own company. J.D. Power and Associates was born on April 1, 1968.
In the beginning, it was truly a homegrown operation: the associates mentioned in the firm’s name were David’s wife and children, and the company’s headquarters were the Power family’s kitchen table. David recalls these humble beginnings: “We started on the kitchen table with the three kids, a fourth one on the way. My wife did the tabulations for me. My kids folded the questionnaires and cover letters and put a quarter on it using Scotch Tape [an incentive to complete the survey] and stuffed the envelopes. As we grew we called anyone that worked there an associate.”
A spirit of collaboration distinguished the firm’s early days. A discovery made by Julie Power, David’s wife, is what first brought the company national awareness in 1972. When Julie found a design flaw in some Mazda vehicles, the story was picked up by The Wall Street Journal, and the next day J.D. Power’s name was being highlighted in press around the world.
In the years that followed, J.D. Power and Associates became best known for its rankings of automotive customer satisfaction, with its scope also extending to product quality research in non-automotive fields. In 1976, the company conducted its first Dealer Attitude Study, and in 1981 added the U.S. Automotive Customer Satisfaction Index. Today, the company is celebrated for its research on new-car quality and long-term dependability.
Dave Power has steered his focus toward a younger generation, becoming an adjunct professor of marketing at California State University, Northridge. In 2018, the Power family made a $3 million donation to liberal arts programs at the College of the Holy Cross, establishing the J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World. Power also regularly makes speeches to management and boards of directors of companies. From research to home-grown entrepreneurship to education and philanthropy, David Power is both a trailblazer and a booster of the industry.