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Three Things I Learned from Michael Davis

As many of you may know, we tragically lost Michael Davis at the end of 2019. He left behind a beautiful family with three incredible daughters who resemble him in so many ways.

But Michael also left a strong influence on me, a guy who was lucky enough to work with him for several years at PROS and then work for him as a customer for several years after PROS.

Michael had a strong instinct for doing the right thing, even if it wasn’t popular or easy. And people took notice. And for people like me, it changed the way we thought about the world. In thinking about how he influenced the world, I keep coming back to three major lessons I learned from him. And I’d like to share those with you today.

Lesson One: Do the Right Thing for the Customer

In the midst of a complex and difficult project, it is sometimes tempting to take short cuts, knowing the customer may not even know the difference. Michael was adamant that this was not acceptable. He always wanted to make sure things were done right, and never endorsed taking short cuts to leave the customer without the solution they paid for. Customers like Scott Green and Ken Sauers took notice and sought to hire Michael onto their teams after PROS. This trait always served Michael well, although it was not always popular with other team members that may have wanted to take short cuts. Michael had integrity. And because Michael always looked out for the customer, this always served the customer well. Over the years I’ve always admired Michael for this characteristic, and I’ve always been happy to be working with him, knowing we could align on doing the right thing for the customer.

Lesson Two: Listen to What the Data is Telling You

Although Michael was one of the most friendly and easy-going people you would ever meet, he seemed to always have a good sense for sniffing out the truth, and he was adamant about looking at the data vs. relying on people’s best guesses. I remember multiple times, people on his projects would come to conclusions that were not supported by the data, and Michael would calmly get the team refocused on what the data was telling them. Sometimes this made decisions take a little longer, but the quality of the decisions improved dramatically vs. the alternative. I remember visiting him once at Tyco Electronics where he was leading a pricing analytics project, and I was surprised a project that should have taken just 3-6 months to implement pricing analytics had taken over a year. When I asked him why it took so long, he simply and confidently responded that it was more important to make sure the data they were looking at was correct, even if it took a little longer to get the project completed. Now, of course, nobody would disagree with this statement. But I will tell you that there were many projects that did not have a leader like Michael, and their results included calculation errors, missing values in the data, and filtering out important information that changed the data summary outputs, all things that would not have happened if they had a leader like Michael running them.

Lesson Three: Focus on What Matters Most and not the Noise

Michael instinctively understood that all problems don’t need to be solved and 80% of the results often come from 20% of the potential solutions. He didn’t have patience for working on something that was not going to generate much value. He had a great filter for discovering and focusing on what was most important. This included relationships with people. Later in our relationship, I always knew that if I could find out what Michael thought was most important, I could focus on that and generate tons of value. And lucky for me, Michael was always happy to share what he thought, and he was usually pretty nice about it. This is a quality I always admired about Michael, and It is something that I believe made him ultra-effective in all his roles of his way-too-short career.

As I wrote my most recent book on Pricing, Price for Growth: A Revolutionary Step-by-Step Approach to Massively Increase the Value of Your Company by Leveraging Focused Pricing Strategies, I thought a lot about my experiences with Michael, as they definitely impacted my career and set of pricing knowledge. In fact, in the front, I included a tribute to him, as I felt he had so much to offer, and too few people got to know him.

In summary, he was a great guy, and I think all of us that knew him greatly benefited from his values and his ideas.


About the Author: Jeff Robinson brings the perspective of two-decades working with companies across industries to help them improve their pricing practices and results. He has designed, marketed, and implemented pricing solutions used by hundreds of companies, whose combined revenues total more than one trillion dollars. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, combined with an MBA in marketing and finance, he has brought new perspectives to the world of pricing, often challenging prevailing notions or widely accepted strategies. Combining his formal education with over 20 years’ experience, he has recently authored the book, Price for Growth, A Step-by-Step Approach to Massively Impact the Value of Your Company by Leveraging Focused Pricing Strategies. Today, he is leading the development of a new company, Revolution Pricing, focused on helping companies create and select appropriate pricing strategies for maximizing the value of their own companies.

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