LOS ANGELES - There are rewards for loyalty. Just ask Steve Goodall.
Goodall, whose only employer has been J.D. Power and Associates, was named president of the internationally known research firm last August after 19 years with the company.
Goodall, 42, a senior partner at the time, had been discussing with founder J. David Power III the need for someone to handle the firm's everyday business, since Power travels most of the year. But Power did not appear to be near a decision when Goodall left for a vacation in Germany.
When Goodall returned to work two weeks later, however, he found someone else occupying his office. That's how he found out Power had named him president while he was gone.
'My wife told me, 'That's what you get for taking a vacation,'' Goodall said in a recent interview.
Before becoming president, Goodall was in charge of all Power research operations, including the famous automotive surveys and 'the factory' of phoning and collating the massive volumes of market research. He also was in charge of all American branch offices, financing, accounting and human resources.
With his new title, Goodall also is in charge of the Power Information Network, consulting and publications.
NOT A 1-MAN SHOW
But Goodall insists he does not see himself as heir-apparent to the Power throne.
'We have 360 employees and a $40 million business, so running it as a one-person entrepreneurial company is not the model that will work where we're going,' he said. 'I'm the bridge from an entrepreneurial firm to a professionally managed firm.
'You fill Dave Power's shoes with a bunch of people, not with just one person.'
However, his boss and mentor, Power himself, disagrees.
'When I made Steve president, I considered him the heir-apparent ... . He has always displayed the right leadership qualities to help us grow the organization,' Power said in a telephone interview.
'With me looking over his shoulder, it's not easy. But he's doing an excellent job.'
When Goodall joined the Agoura Hills, Calif., research firm straight out of college, it had perhaps 20 employees and was nowhere near being the brand-name it is today.
'Back then, I thought 'J.D. who?' I thought I'd do market research for a year and then move on,' Goodall said. But as the company grew, so did Goodall's interest in its mission, as well as his stature in the company.
Just the same, Goodall admits that he has had wanderlust at times during his Power tenure. During the late 1980s, Goodall started getting itchy, so Power put him in charge of the new Detroit office. He headed that office from 1989 to 1994.
'Detroit wasn't buying our surveys then,' Goodall said. 'They accused us of being in bed with the Japanese. It took two years to get established, get contracts and make some money.'
AN ACQUIRED TASTE
Goodall admits he has not always been a car guy. 'I mean, I cared about cars when I came here, but I didn't read the buff books,' he said. 'I've come to like them since I've been here.'
He drives a 1994 Pontiac Bonneville - 'a legacy from Detroit,' he calls it. He realizes that it isn't an all-star in the Power surveys, and said his next car purchase may be more driven by the survey results.
Running the day-to-day operations of the first name in automotive market research means a lot of long hours for Goodall, which makes it hard with a daughter in junior high school and a son in Cub Scouts.
'Now that's real management,' Goodall says with a laugh about his son's Scout troop. 'Getting a bunch of 8-year-olds to do something together.'