Irish America magazine celebrated its 2017 Business 100 Awards on December 13 at the Metropolitan Club in Manhattan, recognizing the contributions of 100 Irish and Irish American business professionals to the corporate world. Bill McDermott, CEO of the global software giant SAP, delivered the keynote speech.
“I think about being in this room in the great city of New York, my favorite city, the city I was born in, the city I love with all my heart and soul,” he said. “I’ll never forget coming into this building [the Metropolitan Club] for the first time to sell them a [Xerox] copy machine when I was 21 years old. And I was like, ‘Man, this must the kind of place you get to when you really make it, when you’re on top of the world.’ Can you imagine how I feel tonight?”
McDermott, whose father was a cable splicer for Con Edison and whose mother was a homemaker, spoke of his working class upbringing and his early determination TO become a businessman. When he was 17, he bought a local deli from the owner on promissory notes and stocked the store on consignment, eventually turning the store into a local hub for teenagers after school and working-men on weekends. He had stiff competition from a local chain supermarket and a 7-Eleven, but established a guiding business principle that he has taken with him everywhere: “The little one has to do what the big ones are either structurally unable to do or are unwilling to do because they’re not hustlers.”
The speech was a sincere and entertaining recollection of the steps McDermott took to get to from the corner store the top corner office of SAP as the German company’s first-ever American CEO, with advice for people at all levels of their careers scattered throughout. Recalling his first interview with Xerox, where he worked after college, McDermott said he knew he’d get the job because, in speaking with other applicants in the waiting room who were looking at other companies in addition to Xerox, he realized “I wanted it, so much more than they wanted it.” His dream was to work for Xerox, and he made it happen.
That theme runs throughout McDermott’s professional rise. While still at Xerox, he was put in charge of the Puerto Rico division, 67 out of 67 in the country for sales, and within the first year he ran the organization he brought it up to number one, a position it still holds today. He went on to become the youngest corporate officer in the history of Xerox. At SAP, Nick Tzitzon, SAP’s EVP of marketing and communications who introduced McDermott, offered his more recent bonafides:
“Since [Bill] entered the corner office in 2010, all of these metrics have either doubled or tripled: the revenue of the company, the profits of the company, the number of employees in the company, the share price of the company, the number of employees who own shares of the company so that everyone shares in the success, the number of employees employed by the partners of SAP now numbering over two million,” he said.
“Bill has created a legacy of leadership that will be difficult for anyone to ever match.”
Born in Queens, New York, and raised in Amityville, Long Island, McDermott is a third-generation Irish American with paternal roots in County Roscommon. He is also an internationally best-selling author. His memoir, Winners Dream: From the Corner Store to the Corner Office, was published by Simon and Schuster in 2014 and won an Axiom Business Book Award. He and his wife, Julie, have two sons. He lives in the U.S. and Germany, but, he jokes, “most frequently, at 39,000 feet.”
After his address, McDermott received a House of Waterford Crystal Lismore Essence Vase Keynote Speaker Award by Irish America co-founder and editor-in-chief Patricia Harty and founding publisher Niall O’Dowd. McDermott is profiled in Irish America’s December / January 2018 issue. Read the cover story here.
The evening also featured musical performances by two renowned Irish tenors: Richard Troxell, who performed “America the Beautiful” and “Look to the Rainbow,” from the musical Finian’s Rainbow, and Ciaran Sheehan, who previously starred as the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, who sang “I’ll take You Home Again Kathleen” in tribute to McDermott’s mother, Kathy McDermott, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Music of the Night” from the Phantom of the Opera.
Recently-appointed Irish Consul General to New York Ciaran Madden also addressed the room, speaking of his hope for continued involvement in the Irish community in New York and abroad, and Möet Hennessey donated a magnum of Möet Champagne for a raffle prize.
Two hundred and fifty people, including 60 of the honorees, attended the awards dinner, marking a record-breaking turnout for the Irish America Business 100 Awards. Among the honorees in attendance were: Kate Barton, Americas Vice Chair for Tax Services at EY; William M. Casey, Vice Chair of Transaction Advisory Services at EY Americas; Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and group president of Verison Wireless; Edwina Fitzmaurice, Global Advisory Markets Leader at EY; Primetime television and podcast host and Chairman of C-Suite Network Jeffrey Hayzlett; Kate Kelly Smith, Senior Vice President and Publishing Director of Hearst Design Group; Kieran McGrath, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer at CA Technologies; and Ryan Olohan, Managing Director of Health Care at Google. All the honorees received House of Waterford Crystal Shamrock Awards.
The complete 2017 Irish America Business 100 Awards List can be seen here.
Also in attendance were: Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations; Brendan P. Foster, President of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce; Brian Tierney, Organizing Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland; Irish America Hall of Fame inductee John Fitzpatrick, President and CEO, Fitzpatrick Hotel Group North America and Chairman of the Ireland Funds; Irish America Hall of Fame inductee Loretta Brennan Glucksman, 2018 Grand Marshal of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade; Irish America Hall of Fame inductee Bob Devlin, Chairman of Curragh Capital Partners; and 2011 Irish America Wall Street 50 Keynote Speaker Brian Ruane, CEO of BNY Mellon Government Securities Services.
The Irish America Business 100 Awards, now in its 33rd year, are sponsored by: SAP, EY, Mutual of America, PwC, Vin-Go, CA Technologies, FleishmanHillard, Tourism Ireland, House of Waterford Crystal, University College Dublin Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, The Ireland Funds, 1-800-Flowers.com, CIE Tours International, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland. ♦