How Ernst & Young CEO Jim Turley fosters entrepreneurship Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2010

You would likely forgive James Turley if he forgot for just a moment about the importance of individual people.

After all, as chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young, he is responsible for about 144,000 of them, a population larger than the country of Grenada.

So if he spoke about his people in terms of regions, or even in terms of countries, it would make sense. And yet to hear Turley tell it, multibillion-dollar market movement is created by thinking about individuals.

“When you think about our culture, we have a mindset of people first,” Turley says. “We actually think first in every business decision we make about the impact on our people, because the people are all we are. Every one of our assets, when they go home at night, we want to be the kind of place they want to come back to the next day.”

And what gets people back in the office each day is a sense of ownership that makes them feel like they’re an entrepreneur growing a business in their local community.

“It’s very important that we stay entrepreneurial in spite of our size,” Turley says. “When the outside world looks at Ernst & Young, they see us as being the most global, as having the best people culture, and, very importantly, they see us as being best at both serving entrepreneurs as well as being entrepreneurial ourselves.”

To keep that entrepreneurial feel, Turley has to trust that people can keep things moving without him having to sign off on every decision.

“You do that by empowering people to actually make decisions and do the right thing every day,” he says.  

Global scale, local execution

That all sounds nice, but execution is, of course, the chariot of genius. Anybody can espouse the virtue of empowerment, but letting go of the reins can be tough.

Turley was in Cleveland in April for a Boy Scouts of America luncheon. He was the guest speaker and also got to spend plenty of time with Don Misheff, Northeast Ohio managing partner for Ernst & Young.

Misheff heads the local execution of Ernst & Young’s grand designs. He leads more than 1,000 people and was the committee chairman for the charity lunch. The event was the kind of touch point that has made Ernst & Young feel like a local shop. A company that’s spent 12 straight years on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list could likely do without having two top executives spending so much time in the marketplace, but the individuals outside the company are on both Misheff’s and Turley’s minds, too.

“I think keeping an open door, staying connected with our people, being engaged with them in daily activities in the community to understand what they’re dealing with from the market side of the house, that’s important,” Misheff says of being out in the local community. “The other thing, when we talk about entrepreneurship, it gets lost sometimes because people get too focused on size instead of style or culture.”

That culture is one that sees and understands that the local marketplace is where future employees are growing up and, ultimately, where global growth will be created. To Turley, opportunity is everywhere, and focusing on individuals instead of being trapped with the 30,000-foot level mindset of such a large organization is the most important thing he can do.

“At Ernst & Young we actually look at the world outside in terms of the potential that exists — the potential in people, in the companies out there, the potential in the community,” Turley says. “And we dedicate the skills we have to try to help others achieve that potential, so it’s very much community focused, very much focused on helping others. It’s something we do all around the world.”

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Motoring through the desert

When Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., announced several years ago that he intended to apply his lifelong commitment to sustainability to the company his grandfather founded, few thought it would work.

Today, Ford’s vision has helped the motor company weather one of the worst economic climates in modern history and positioned Ford as an industry leader in developing economically friendly vehicles.

That’s one reason why Ernst & Young LLP asked Ford to kick off the CEO invitation-only Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum 2010, which will be held Nov. 10-14 in Palm Springs, Calif.

This program convenes more than 1,500 of the nation’s top CEOs, entrepreneurs, advisers, investors and other senior business leaders and is the country’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies.

The forum delivers leading business advice designed to help entrepreneurs master strategies for company growth, discuss ideas on the transaction market and available capital, learn the critical success factors of mergers, acquisitions and IPOs, hear inspiring stories from game-changing entrepreneurs, and meet potential customers, investors, partners, acquisition targets and buyers.

It concludes with the 24th national Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards, the largest gathering of entrepreneurs in America, hosted by Jay Leno.

Beyond Ford, this year’s speaker lineup includes a who’s who of business:

  • Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Co.
  • A.G. Lafley, former chairman of the board, president and CEO, Procter & Gamble
  • Deepak Chopra, co-founder, The Chopra Center for Well Being
  • Tom Adams, CEO, Rosetta Stone Inc.
  • Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Jeffrey Joerres, chairman and CEO, Manpower Inc.
  • Rob Enslin, president, SAP North America
  • Christina Lampe-Onnerud, founder and CEO, Boston-Power Inc.
  • Debi Fine, president and CEO, Direct Brands
  • Greg Norman, professional golfer and entrepreneur

Learn more at

www.ey.com/us/strategicgrowthforum

Motoring through the desert

When Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., announced several years ago that he intended to apply his lifelong commitment to sustainability to the company his grandfather founded, few thought it would work.

Today, Ford’s vision has helped the motor company weather one of the worst economic climates in modern history and positioned Ford as an industry leader in developing economically friendly vehicles.

That’s one reason why Ernst & Young LLP asked Ford to kick off the CEO invitation-only Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum 2010, which will be held Nov. 10-14 in Palm Springs, Calif.

This program convenes more than 1,500 of the nation’s top CEOs, entrepreneurs, advisers, investors and other senior business leaders and is the country’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies.

The forum delivers leading business advice designed to help entrepreneurs master strategies for company growth, discuss ideas on the transaction market and available capital, learn the critical success factors of mergers, acquisitions and IPOs, hear inspiring stories from game-changing entrepreneurs, and meet potential customers, investors, partners, acquisition targets and buyers.

It concludes with the 24th national Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards, the largest gathering of entrepreneurs in America, hosted by Jay Leno.

Beyond Ford, this year’s speaker lineup includes a who’s who of business:

  • Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Co.
  • A.G. Lafley, former chairman of the board, president and CEO, Procter & Gamble
  • Deepak Chopra, co-founder, The Chopra Center for Well Being
  • Tom Adams, CEO, Rosetta Stone Inc.
  • Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Jeffrey Joerres, chairman and CEO, Manpower Inc.
  • Rob Enslin, president, SAP North America
  • Christina Lampe-Onnerud, founder and CEO, Boston-Power Inc.
  • Debi Fine, president and CEO, Direct Brands
  • Greg Norman, professional golfer and entrepreneur

Learn more at

www.ey.com/us/strategicgrowthforum