Leadership transitions are high-stakes affairs. In hiring his own replacement, Tom James has adopted a phased-in succession.
Paul Reilly (left) will succeed Tom James, who succeeded his father, company founder Bob James (painting).
Paul Reilly, 55
Previous positions: Executive chairman, Korn/Ferry International; CEO, KPMG International; real estate developer
Education: MBA in finance, University of Notre Dame; CPA
Family: Married, with three daughters
Timing: “I sold my consulting firm to KPMG on Black Monday, October 1987. I joined Korn/Ferry on June 30 of 2001, which is the year the industry went down by 50% because of the tech bubble, and I joined here in March, which I think was the low point of the stock market. I tell people, I hope I don’t cause the bottoms; maybe I just get to join on the bottoms.”
Similarities with Tom James: “I think we’re a lot more alike than I thought. I found out things about him after I joined — for example, we have the same birthday, which was kind of creepy. Financially, we both don’t have debt. There are a lot of similarities.”
Recruitment: “We both have this philosophy that if you recruit people one by one, they’re more likely to be coming for the right reasons because they believe in what you’re doing.”
Recovery: “The industry I think has gone through the hardest part. Tom and I share (the belief) it’s going to be a longer rebuild, that we are rebuilding, but it may take more time than people think.”
Government regulation: “I think the mood right now is to try and regulate everything. There is always what Icall the law of unintended consequences. So you can put out a cash for clunkers program and it stimulates car sales and it does all sorts of good things and it gets gas guzzlers off the road. But go talk to people who have repair shops and talk to people that sell auto parts for cars — you don’t hear about those things. I’m not a great believer in fiddling with the free market unless there is crisis.”
Good management: “I think there are some managers who like to beat up people and focus on their weaknesses. I actually think great managers are able to look at other people’s strengths and capitalize on them and know their own strengths and weaknesses and make sure they get people who can cover their weaknesses and leverage off their strengths.”
Motivation: “When you get to be this big, it isn’t about a person; it’s about a group of people that can motivate a bigger group of people that can motivate a bigger group of people to get the jobs done. I don’t care how good Tom is, if the financial advisers aren’t good and they’re not motivated in talking to the customers, this whole thing doesn’t work.”