Alec Davis: The Man Behind the Success of Davis & Shirtliff

Alec Davis: The Man Behind the Success of Davis & Shirtliff
Collage image of Alec Davis and the Davis & Shirtliff Kitale branch. |Courtesy| D&S|

Alec Davis is a veteran corporate head who serves as the chairman for Davis & Shirtliff in an executive capacity and at Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital in a non-executive capacity.

He has led Davis & Shirtliff for 25 years, infusing professionalism into the company’s board and management. In the course of his tenure, Davis has led the company to monstrous growth. Davis & Shirtliff has become the leader in the water and energy industries, with over 80 regional branches in 9 countries and over 1000 staff.

Here is his story as told by WoK.

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Background & Education

Alec’s parents immigrated to Kenya during the colonial period and he was born in the country. He attended St Mary’s in Lavington, before proceeding to pursue his university education in the UK. He is a trained engineer and also holds an MBA degree from the Manchester Business School.

Alec Davis: The Man Behind the Success of Davis & Shirtliff
Collage image of Alec Davis. |Courtesy| D&S|


Davis returned to Kenya after his graduation in the UK and went straight into spearheading operations at Davis and Shirtliff. From a small enterprise, he grew the company to the national and continental brand it has become, and a market leader in water and energy activities.

He stepped down as the company’s CEO in 2017, and David Gatende was appointed to take his place. Gatende runs the company alongside Davis’ two sons. Davis moved on to become the company’s board chair.

With experience spanning close to five decades, Davis has developed strong beliefs on what makes a successful Chair of Board, a role he considers to be central to any organisation’s success and which should be one of guidance and consensus-building between the various organisational constituencies. He’s a staunch believer in Integrity, Quality and ‘Altiora Peto’, his old school motto, which means always seeking continuous improvement.

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Davis & Shirtliff

The company is arguably the leading supplier of water-related equipment in the East African region. Its operations are focused on seven principal product sectors – Water Pumps, Boreholes Solutions, Swimming Pools, Water Treatment, Generators, Solar Solutions and Irrigation.

According to the company website, it has operations in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda, South Sudan, DRC, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia. D&S distributes high quality equipment sourced from a number of industry-leading companies from around the world as well as carrying out the manufacture and assembly of various water-related products.

Davis & Shirtliff has a total complement of over 900 highly trained and professional staff. The company has heavily invested in infrastructure with modern office facilities, a fully integrated ICT network and large product and spare parts stocks.

Alec Davis: The Man Behind the Success of Davis & Shirtliff
Collage image of the Davis & Shirtliff headquarters in Tatu City. |Courtesy| D&S|

In 2019, the company moved to its new headquarters in Tatu City, 25 km outside Nairobi near Ruiru. The state-of-the-art Distribution Centre covers an area of 10,000m² with extensive warehousing, manufacturing, training and administrative facilities from where products are efficiently distributed by the company’s own fleet of trucks.

“Distribution is the core competence that one needs in this digital age. This investment will greatly enhance distribution capacity to the Groups’ network of 70 branches in nine regional countries as well as facilitating development of the growing e-business, a key Group priority that is going to drive the business into the future,” Davis said during the commissioning event.

Warehouse features include a single-roof open floor area with extensive racking, self-levelling vehicle docking bays, high specification material handling equipment and a new warehouse management IT system has also been installed.

“We needed a completely different approach to distribution and a Greenfield project like this was the only option. Previously distribution was centralised at the Company’s Industrial Area Head Office though due to huge growth over the past few years driven by development of the branch network capacity had become overwhelmed. Facilities of a different scale had become vital and that was the genesis of this project,” said Davis.

When Davis & Shirtliff opened 50 years ago, it was selling about 700 pumps a year. Today the company is selling over 200,000 pumps as well as many other products annually. The new facility will allow for increased stock holding, and, importantly, faster delivery to customers.

“We believe we have a strong basis to grow within Africa and become an African brand. We certainly are leading our industry in terms of technology, distribution and product. Through this, we offer greatly improved service to our customers that enables us to achieve our Improving Lives purpose and it is a powerful driver for us as we develop this business.”

Alec Davis: The Man Behind the Success of Davis & Shirtliff
Collage image of the Davis & Shirtliff headquarters in Tatu City. |Courtesy| D&S|


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