Jack D. Davis, founder of Daman Products, the company he started in 1976 with no money, experience, or customers, passed away on Oct. 18.
Daman CEO Larry M. Davis distributed the following letter, which he addressed to “the Daman family.”
An open letter to the Daman Family,
On September 14, 1933, Jack D. Davis was born to Mable and Leo Davis in Mishawaka, Indiana. He was a lifelong resident of Mishawaka except for a few years in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He attended Twin Branch Elementary School and graduated from Mishawaka High School in 1952, where he excelled in vocational technology.
His career started as a machinist at Wyco Products, and he was progressing toward a journeyman card when an opportunity opened on the “board” at South Bend Drafting. It was during his time on the drafting board that Jack was introduced to hydraulics. This introduction had a profound impact on the rest of his life – an impact he could not have imagined growing up poor in the east end of Mishawaka.
In the early 1960s, Jack went to work for Neff Engineering of South Bend and eventually earned a territory to sell hydraulic components and systems. In the late 1960s, Neff Engineering started a new division in Fort Wayne called Hydro Systems, a manufacturer of hydraulic power units. Jack was elected to lead this division. It was at Hydro Systems that the need for a reliable source of bar manifolds became apparent to him. He tested the possibility of supplying these manifolds and was rejected by the Neff organization.
As an entrepreneur will do, he didn’t take no for an answer and had a few samples made. Word of a presentation about these manifolds to a distributor got back to the Neff organization, resulting in Jack losing his job. In December 1975, he was faced with the decision to find another job or start his own company. He chose the latter. In March 1976, undercapitalized, with no manufacturing experience, no customers, and no orders, Daman Products was formed.
He sold his home in Fort Wayne and moved his family back to Mishawaka, where he expected to find a loan for his new business. He was rudely awakened to the harsh reality of financial risk. There was nothing remotely interesting to the banks about his plan and lack of experience. Yet again, that did not stop him. He took the little equity he had in his home and invested in WWII-salvaged equipment. He bought used tools by the pound and opened for business. It would be ten years of financial struggle and hard lessons before he felt the business might survive.
But that wasn’t enough for him. Even though he could not define it, he wanted Daman to be world-class. Enter the concept of “lean thinking” in 1997, which became the engine that allowed Jack to realize his goal. This goal defines Daman’s culture to this day. Embedded in this culture are a focus on people, training, accountability, respect, and trust. It requires deep commitments (not contracts) and deep relationships with employees, suppliers, and customers.
Daman Products stands today as the living legacy of Jack’s vision of excellence, of treating people with dignity, and serving his markets better than all other suppliers. The feedback from Daman’s markets indicates that he accomplished his dream. Even more satisfying to him was the company’s continued push to be better tomorrow than it is today.
I’ve addressed this letter to the “Daman Family,” which to Jack, first and foremost, includes all of our employees, yet not exclusively. Family also includes our customers and the suppliers that enable Daman to provide its market the level of product quality and service that Jack demanded. Even though he stepped back from operations 15 years ago, his absolute insistence on tangible product quality, as well as perceived product quality, is still alive and well today.
On October 18, 2020, Jack Dwight Davis left this world supported by family. For most, this back story will be news. What is not news is his love and appreciation for the people that helped him live his vision. He leaves behind a legacy of resilience, tenacity, and hard work. And he took the most pride in knowing he had given so many people opportunities to improve their lives.
With sincere gratitude,
Larry M. Davis, CEO