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January 26, 2017

Former President & CEO of J.D. Power and Associates Steve Goodall Selected as 2017 Distinguished Alumnus

Steve Goodall (left) with Dean Judy Hennessey (right)
Stephen (Steve) C. Goodall (BS, Business Administration, '78) selected as 2017 Distinguished Alumnus

Every year the College of Business selects one alumnus to celebrate for their professional accomplishments. They embody the spirit of inspired leadership and sustained motivation. Their stories inspire our students and their peers and give us reason to celebrate. Join us in honoring this year’s College of Business Distinguished Alumni award winner.

2017 | Steve Goodall

Steve Goodall (BS, Business Administration, '78) is the retired President and CEO of J.D. Power and Associates, a global market information firm specializing in customer satisfaction and buyer behavior. He started his career at J.D. Power in 1978 after graduating from California State University, Chico. Steve opened the company’s first satellite office in Detroit, Michigan, in 1988. He was named President in 1996 and served as President and CEO until 2008. During this time, Steve led J.D. Power’s global expansion and diversification into industries beyond automotive. He oversaw the sale of the company in 2005 to The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc., now known as S&P Global.

Currently, Steve is on the Board of Directors at Outsell Inc. and Digital Clarity Group, as well advises several early-stage information enterprises. Steve serves on the Board of GuideStar.org, the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations, as well as co-leads a small education-focused charitable foundation.

Steve received a BS in business administration, marketing, and a BA in psychology from CSU, Chico. He earned an MBA from the University of Southern California and was awarded a Distinguished Career Institute Fellowship at Stanford University.

Steve sat down for an interview with the College of Business in January 2017. Here is what he had to say:

What are you interests/hobbies?

I have a lot of interests, but there are three things I particularly enjoy doing. First, is getting outside and running, cycling or hiking.  I love the outdoors, and I love moving and seeing things. Running is the perfect blend of exercise, solitude, exploration, and endurance. I have recently taken up cycling, and I love taking hikes with my wife and family when the opportunity arises.

Growing up, I was never a big reader, but I now find it such a rewarding pursuit. I love reading biographies, science fiction, and historical novels. 

Finally, I am a big sports fan and follow college basketball and football, as well pro basketball and baseball. My son and son-in-law have encouraged my participation in playing fantasy basketball and football, which I find interesting and changes how I look at the games.

Do you have any community involvement activities you would like to highlight?

Right now, I am very excited to be serving on the Steering Committee for the Generation to Generation Los Angeles (Gen2Gen LA) campaign. This is a unique intergenerational initiative that is starting in Los Angeles. It is focused on actively engaging older, culturally diverse 50+ adults to work with children (0 – 8 years old) in under-served communities across Los Angeles County. With approximately 25 percent (220,000) of LA County children under six years old living in poverty, Gen2Gen LA is working in partnership with local community agencies to recruit older adults as volunteers or paid staff to help prepare young children to be educationally and socially ready to be successful in elementary school. 

Do you have any memberships on boards of directors or other organizations?

On the commercial side, I serve on the Boards of Outsell Inc. and Digital Clarity Group, two privately-held research and advisory firms. I am also a Board Advisor to three early-stage information enterprises. 

On the social venture side, I serve on the Board of GuideStar.org, the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations. I am also on the Steering Committee of Generation to Generation Los Angeles, and co-lead a small charitable foundation focused on education. 

Are there any particular Chico State faculty who most positively influenced your life and career? How?

Well, there were many Chico State faculty that had an influence on me. There is one in particular that I want to highlight, although for the life of me I cannot remember her name. This instructor taught a market research class that I took my last semester before graduating. Before taking this class, I was searching for what career path I wanted to pursue upon graduation. I was going to get a degree in Psychology and a degree in Business, but it wasn’t clear how these two degrees would complement each other, if at all. This instructor, along with the course material and the student project brought it all together for me—that is, I saw how what I was learning could be put to practical use.

In fact, she arranged for a team of three other students and me to conduct a study for the City of Oroville to measure how much money was being spent by residents in other communities outside of Oroville on groceries, gasoline, clothing, and the like. We found that there was quite a bit of money being spent outside of Oroville. Our final report was shared with the Oroville City Council. Our professor arranged for us to travel to Oroville to present our findings. We were quoted in the Oroville newspaper, and we were taken out to lunch by the City Manager, so it made a pretty big impression on me and my fellow students on the impact of market research—all the result of this one instructor and how she taught the class. 

What were your non-academic interests while you were attending Chico State?

Does partying count? Just kidding. In the late 1970s, when I went to Chico, the school had a pretty big reputation as a party school. When I applied to Chico, I had no idea the school had such a reputation. I grew up in a pretty sheltered household in Southern California, so the social aspect of college life was very new and exciting to me. This turned out to be a good learning experience for me, since for the first time I found I needed to set my own boundaries, to know when I needed to be serious and disciplined, and when it was time to have fun. Doing well in school was important to me, and for this to happen, I had to work at it. All of the social opportunities at Chico helped me sort out what was important and to realize there are a time and place for everything. 

So you don’t think that my entire time at Chico was split between studying and partying, I did volunteer as a Big Brother my junior year, as well as took several backpacking and skiing trips to Mount Lassen. I frequently enjoyed hiking and swimming in Upper Bidwell Park. I even hopped a freight train with friends one weekend and road over the Sierras before catching another train back home. Perhaps this was not the safest thing to do, but it made for a great adventure.

What advice would you give your graduating self?

Pick a wave and ride it. When I was much younger growing up in Santa Barbara, CA near the beach, I used to occasionally surf. I remember successfully riding waves involved picking the right swell before it became an actual wave, and positioning yourself just right, so that your speed and the wave’s speed were in sync, so you could catch the wave and have a long and enjoyable ride to shore. 

Part of one’s success in life is picking the right thing to be a part of—the right wave, so to speak. No one achieves anything in pure isolation, so following your interests and getting involved with something that is new and starting to gain momentum can be very rewarding. 

There are many trends (or waves) to ride in one's lifetime. Picking the right one is the trick and often involves several factors, including something that obviously captures your interest, that plays to your strengths, and that is early enough in its development that you have an opportunity to meaningfully participate and help shape the outcome. 

Emerging trends, like swells in the ocean, come in all sizes. Some trends are slow to emerge, while others are quite short-lived. Some trends are large and cut across society or large sectors of the market. Other trends are very localized and exist within a community or specific organization. The key is keeping your eye on the horizon to see what is coming next. Sometimes it takes patience to wait for the right trend to emerge. When it does, I say go for it! You will be surprised how far you can go when you catch the right wave.

What do you value most in life?

Most important is the love and relationship with my wife, Jane, whom I met when we were both juniors at Chico State. We have been married for over 37 years and have two wonderful children and two adorable grandchildren. We are blessed in that two of our parents are still healthy and we have two supportive extended families, and many good friends.

I also value innovative thinking, the creative process, and the perseverance that is often required to create something that is truly valuable and lasting. I believe my purpose in life is often addressed when I can contribute to a better world. There are many, many paths for making this kind of contribution and I genuinely admire people and situations where this is being done. 

What is your greatest accomplishment or wildest ambition?

Probably my most enduring accomplishment so far is the time I spent at J.D. Power and Associates. When I joined J.D. Power, it was a tiny, unknown market research company located in Los Angeles, CA with maybe ten employees. I got to be part of the process of figuring out how the company could differentiate itself and become known for measuring quality and customer satisfaction. I had the opportunity to put into action many of the marketing and product development things I learned at Chico. I got the chance to learn what J.D. Power’s clients wanted and needed and I was given increasing responsibility to supervise people and projects. After earning my MBA from USC, I was given the opportunity to open the company’s first branch office in Detroit, which provided me the opportunity to learn what it is like to start your own business, to win over skeptical customers, and to hire and develop staff. 

In 1996, I was asked to become President of J.D. Power. At that time, we had grown to $40 million in revenue and had approximately 200 employees. While we had a lot of opportunities, we were experiencing growing pains and had cash flow problems. Working on these issues gave me a much better understanding of finance and the business model we should pursue going forward. 

The next several years proved to be a period of strong growth for the company, where we expanded our customer satisfaction expertise into other industries, most notably banking, insurance, home building, travel, and telecommunications, as well as expanded our operations in Asia, especially China, and in Europe. I learned, sometimes painfully, about the growing importance of building effective systems, infrastructure, and culture to support a rapidly growing base of clients, employees and suppliers. 

Over all of this time, J.D. Power was a closely held private company that had grown organically. Dave Power, the founder of the company, along with me and the company’s Board of Directors, decided to sell the company and, in 2005, the company was purchased by The McGraw Hill Companies Inc., now known as S&P Global. I remained as President and CEO of the company after the acquisition and served for four years until retiring in 2008. When I retired the company was well over $200 million in annual revenue. We had built strong and recognized brand name and employed over 850 talented individuals across 15 offices in the United States and internationally.

When I graduated from Chico, I never would have dreamed I would have had such an opportunity to grow and to contribute. I believe that without the education I received from CSU, Chico that my journey with J.D. Power would have never begun. I am forever indebted to Chico for the strong foundation it provided and for the confidence it instilled in me to pursue my own path.

What would people be most surprised to learn about you?

While I wouldn’t say I am overly gregarious, I am much more outgoing than I used to be. I used to hold back and wait for people to approach me and I would rarely speak up in an unfamiliar group setting. I have learned to be much more comfortable in approaching people and engaging in conversation. I have done quite a bit of public speaking over the years and have been in many situations that required me to take the initiative and speak up. I enjoy being more extroverted, but not to the degree that I always need to be the center of attention. 

Anything else you would like to share with us?

As I have gotten older, I have gained an even greater appreciation for the importance of lifelong learning. As the life expectancy in our society continues to increase, the opportunity for people to make meaningful contributions well into their 80s and 90s, and even longer, will only increase. I am not sure our society is fully prepared to take advantage of our aging population and to think of it as a benefit rather than a burden. The demographic trends regarding the rising proportion of our population that will be 65 years of age or older are staggering and will result in many political, social, and commercial implications.

I believe that the historical definition of retirement is quickly becoming outmoded for many people and that a new paradigm is required. Even for well-established educational institutions, such as CSU, Chico, addressing the educational needs of individuals in their 60s, 70s, 80s or even older becomes a significant opportunity to address. In fact, the blending of multi-generations in the classroom can provide many benefits and help foster a better model in our society.