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J.D. Power Gets Down to Business with Pepperdine Students and Alumni

Dean’s Executive Leadership Series
March 15, 2006


JD Power at PepperdineJ.D. Power at the Dean's Executive
Leadership Series

Legendary businessman J.D. Power III, founder of J.D. Power and Associates, addressed Pepperdine students, alumni, and friends on March 15, 2006 at the Drescher Graduate Campus in Malibu.  As a special guest speaker at the Dean’s Executive Leadership Series, Mr. Power spoke on the power of customer satisfaction and shared personal anecdotes about his career.

On an introductory note, Mr. Power joked about how the recent acquisition of his company by McGraw-Hill led to his first employee performance review in nearly 40 years. 

“I found out that my longevity over the 38 years was carried over, and so now I qualify for five weeks vacation,” he said. 

On a more serious note, Mr. Power went on to discuss how the information age has caused a shift in power from the company to the customer. 

“In the information society, it’s the people, the voters, the consumers who start to gain power because they have the information to make better decisions,” he said.  “And that’s why our industrial complex in the United States is having such a problem.  They don’t understand that the customer is in charge.”

Humble beginnings:  J.D. Power and Toyota

Mr. Power recounted a story tracing back to his early experiences of acquiring his first client.  He discussed how, after much tenacity and determination, a young Japanese company finally decided to put its trust in him.  That company was Toyota. 

“First I wrote them a letter, and they didn’t answer me so I went down to call on them and the receptionist said, ‘Do you have an appointment?’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t, but I really have to talk to him’ … and lo and behold, she said ‘He doesn’t want to see you.’”

Undiscouraged, he figured out ways to meet with lower executives in different divisions until finally, he was introduced to the head of the company.

“He gave me his business card, and I looked at it and it said ‘Tatsuro Toyota,’ and I thought, ‘Well, that must be the man,’” he laughed.

He explained that much of Toyota’s success is attributed to the company’s dedication to customer satisfaction and its willingness to hear and respond to less-than-favorable consumer feedback.

The event concluded with an open question-and-answer period in which audience members were given the opportunity to pose questions directly to Mr. Power. Afterwards, Mr. Power stayed and chatted one-on-one with students and alumni.

Audience Reaction

JD Power and Pepperdine studentsJ.D. Power chats with Pepperdine students

Students and alumni were enthralled to hear from one of the country’s leading experts on customer satisfaction.

Michael Petran, who received his Master of Science in Technology Management from Pepperdine in 1997, found Mr. Power’s personal accounts of his experience in business most captivating.

“It’s the war stories that really make the difference,” said Mr. Petran, who is currently working on a doctoral degree in organizational leadership at Pepperdine.

The event attracted recent graduates as well as alumni from past generations.  Bob Shaal, who received his MBA in 1980 and has attended several Dean’s Executive Leadership Series events, found Mr. Power’s speech particularly engaging.

“It was excellent,” he said.  “The best one I’ve been to.”

The next speaker in the Dean’s Executive Leadership Series will be Myrlie Evers Williams, former chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on May 17, 2006 at Drescher Graduate campus in Malibu.

The Dean’s Executive Leadership Series brings some of the country’s most prominent business leaders to the Graziadio School to offer invaluable insight and advice to students and alumni.  The series supports the Graziadio School of Business and Management’s mission to provide real-world business knowledge, both in and out of the classroom.