When Paul Ottolini is asked to share a personal trait—one that a family member might divulge to us— the seasoned finance leader tells us that he likes to cut his own lawn and that he is known for being “cheap.”
Still, Ottolini makes clear to us that it’s more the satisfaction of completing a job and not the cost savings that regularly fuels his pursuit of manual tasks.Read More
“I’m smiling when I spread 10 yards of mulch,” says Ottolini, whose words perhaps provide a clue to his past as well as to a work life cadence with which one suspects that he has rarely if ever fallen out of step during his more than three decades of career-building.
The son of a chemist employed by General Motors Corp., Ottolini graduated from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) after completing a co-op undergraduate degree that permitted students to pay for their education by alternating 3 months of classes with 3 months of work inside General Motors.
Upon graduation, Ottolini joined GM, where he worked 2 years as a software engineer before heading to business school at Harvard. With an MBA in hand, Ottolini next joined Deloitte Consulting, where for 6 years he piled up frequent flyer miles as a client-facing consultant—before a surprise return to GM.
“I had wanted to get off the road, and while with GM I knew that it probably was going to take 15 years to match what Deloitte had offered me in 6, I felt that coming from a GM family, I wanted to go back,” recalls Ottolini, who notes that at the time, he was introduced to the GM opportunity by a recruiter from Russell Reynolds Associates, the executive search firm whose CFO office he now occupies.
And just as GM and later Russell Reynolds would make repeat appearances in Ottolini’s professional life, so too did Deloitte, to which Ottolini returned in the early 2000s to serve in a succession of finance leadership roles that ultimately allowed him to place both feet on the CFO path. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Russell Reynolds … what sets this executive search firm apart from others?
Ottolini: Well, we do executive search and development and advice. We also perform what I would call board search and board advice. We deal with everything from primarily the board to the C-suite to maybe one level down. I think that when you talk about search companies, the difference between executive search and maybe “normal” search is that we work on a retainer—we don’t work on a contingent fee basis, and that’s the accounting difference. We do it this way because we’re there to define the needs of what they’re really looking for—it’s not just go and find candidates and place candidates. It’s working with the client to define what they’re really looking for and what the job role should be and then finding the right candidate and getting the right fit.Read More
Sometimes this includes finding the candidate. Sometimes it includes developing the development plan for the next 3 years for this candidate as they come on board. Sometimes it’s not even looking at outside candidates but figuring out who the right people are from a growth perspective within the existing executive ranks.
Our business is mostly executive search, but it also is the work around the executive search to help leaders to make the right leadership decisions. It could be development coaching; it could be advisory; it could be a whole lot of different things. We have kind of stayed up there, while some of our competitors—particularly our public competitors—have moved, as we like to say, “south” into maybe midlevel search or HR consulting or that type of world. But we’ve really stayed around the C-suite level, which has sort of been one of the distinctions, I guess, in our strategy.
Value Quote: “We’ve redone the way we code all of our work, so that we can now get better insights into the types of jobs that we’re doing. …When you get everything tied to an external database, you can now see with whom you’re competing, to whom you’re selling, and to whom you’re not selling within a given industry.”
Russell Reynolds Associates |www.russellreynolds.com | NY, NY