Mike Davis Named One of Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEOs
The Davis Pier Experience
Collaborating with clients who care, to make impact that matters.
Relationships matter. We all know this, so why do so many of us underestimate all that’s involved with establishing a trust-based, respect-driven relationship? It’s an especially poignant question in business, where profit often outpaces purpose even though meaningful relationships are the foundation of impactful projects.
“Giving advice is easy. Conducting research and analysis is easy,” says Mike Davis, co-founder and CEO of Davis Pier. “But none of that work will have an impact if you haven’t invested in building trust and deep relationships with those people tasked with transforming systems.”
In the field of consulting, Davis Pier occupies a unique space where community needs determine the way social innovation projects are chosen and community input defines the way the work gets done. “It’s what holds up our work and gives it meaning,” says Davis, who explains that, “We always start by asking people in community what they need—then work backwards from that, combining community input with rigorous evidence to figure out a workable solution to the problem at hand.”
“It’s about delivering results that government wants in balance with the impact that citizens need,” adds Davis.
“Our work is all about finding creative solutions to complex problems. And it’s about sticking around to ensure that the bright ideas work, work well, and actually get implemented.” —Mike Davis
Examples abound. Several years ago, the Nova Scotia government determined that it needed help modernizing the programs in place to support people living with disabilities. Davis Pier was engaged, and soon deeply committed to this work.
“Nova Scotia recognized the need to improve the ways in which it offers services and supports, and made the long-term commitment required for real systems change,” says Devon Gillis, Partner and point-person on the project for Davis Pier. “Services for persons with disabilities have evolved at a different pace from province to province in Canada, with a need to shift from institutional systems to more inclusive and person-directed models.”
Davis Pier started supporting the Province on a short-term contract, but has become a trusted partner over the years. This, explains Gillis, is not about an extended business relationship or the desire to get more billable hours. The lengthy timeline is an indication of the massive scope to solve systemic problems within a culture and systems that have become entrenched over time.
The time invested by the government speaks to the value—and values—that underpins Davis Pier’s work. It’s all about finding creative solutions to complex problems. And it’s all about sticking around to ensure that the bright ideas work, work well, and actually get implemented.
“This is why the work has taken time,” says Gillis, “and why it will take more time to get it done right. But the leaders within government that we work with are committed to getting things done right, too.”
Since Davis Pier was founded in 2014, work with the Disability Support Program has been just one of many hefty government files to land on our desks. Others include:
- Implementing new models of care for emergency medicine in rural areas of the province.
- Redesigning the income assistance system in the province to support those living in poverty.
- Designing and rolling out critical public health services to keep people healthy and safe during COVID-19, including long-term care protocols, border entry systems, testing programs, and vaccination services.
- Implementing new structures and approaches to increase affordable housing stock.
Davis Pier and its sister entity, Pier Labs, is also tackling tangible issues like food insecurity and unemployment—and less tangible issues like the use of public space to increase people’s overall quality of life. And there has been significant work in the non-profit sector with organizations such as Feed Nova Scotia, Evergreen Canada, and United Way Halifax.
A growing body of work helps explain why a “social innovation company” and its original duo of consultants has blossomed into a team of almost 100.
The work gets done through collaboration and strong relationships. “Our secret weapon is our people and their motivation,” says Jennifer McGill, Executive Director of Pier Labs. In this sense, Davis Pier is not so much a consulting firm as a collaboration company.
The team is a diverse group of experts from varied backgrounds—ranging from management, engineering, and policy—to front-line healthcare, social work, design thinking, and social science. Their common thread? They all ascribe to a purpose-driven approach to work that dives deep into government projects and strives to have both immediate and lasting social impact.
And, should anyone question Davis Pier’s commitment to putting their money on the line—their willingness to place purpose before profit, as it were—it’s worth noting that Davis Pier is a Certified B-Corp. A for-profit company committed to contributing to an inclusive and sustainable economy.
B-Corp Certification is a designation that demands that a business meet “high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials”.
“We are constantly walking the tightrope of balancing purpose and profit. Our B-Corp Certification confirms that we are doing so successfully,” says Mike Davis, CEO.
The magic happens when those impacted by a particular problem are truly consulted, clients are deeply engaged, and solutions are sourced as part of that collaborative process. And yet some ‘fixes’ are surprisingly close at hand.
“We often know that the solution we’re looking for is right under our noses, we just don’t have the time or resources to find it,” says Muhammad Azam, a Director in the Nova Scotia Health Authority who also worked at the Department of Community Services. “Davis Pier helps us do that.”
The Davis Pier experience should be lived to be appreciated.
“Our challenge is not showing that we do high-quality work,” says Darryl Pierrynowski, Partner and COO. “Our challenge is showing those who are strangers to our process and our people, that we work toward a different sort of ROI than many others who call themselves consultants.”
At Davis Pier, the ROI delivered is about: Relationships, Ownership, and Impact. It’s that simple. And it’s that complex.