W. James Farrell is retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ITW, a position he held since May of 1996. Based in Glenview, Illinois, ITW is a multi-national manufacturer of highly engineered fasteners, components, assemblies and systems. ITW is comprised of approximately 750 decentralized operations in 48 countries with more than 50,000 employees and 2006 revenues of over $15 billion.
ITW designs and produces an array of highly engineered fasteners and components, equipment and consumable systems, and specialty products and equipment for customers around the world. Industrial machinery and equipment manufacturing are its primary areas of focus, with secondary sales in food service, food retail equipment, and metal fabrication.
In Farrell’s frequent acquisitions, rather than lay off employees of newly absorbed companies, Farrell preferred to decentralize management. Farrell felt that he could keep business managers closer to their customers with smaller, independent units headed by managers acting as entrepreneurs or small scale CEOs. Today, ITW’s 750 decentralized business units in 48 countries employ over 50,000 men and women.
Farrell’s primary business model was based on a decentralized management style, which he termed the 80/20 approach. In other words, Farrell believed that the majority of his company’s efforts should target the 20 percent of customers who purchased the greater numbers of products. Using this philosophy, Farrell targeted his marketing accordingly while dropping smaller buyers and product lines.
Active in his community, Farrell sits on the board of directors of Abbott, Allstate Insurance Company, 3M and United Airlines. The Business Council, Chicago Club, Civic Committee, Commercial Club of Chicago, Economic Club of Chicago and Mid-America Committee are counted among his many other business affiliations.
Farrell’s civic and cultural affiliations include serving as Former Chairman and Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, United Way Metropolitan Chicago and the Big Shoulders Fund. Additionally, he is a Trustee for the Museum of Science and Industry and Rush University Medical Center.
His educational associations include Chairman of Junior Achievement of Chicago, Trustee of Northwestern University, and Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Kellogg Graduate School of Management.
Farrell was born in Buffalo, New York. He graduated from the University of Detroit in 1965 with a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering. He served in the U.S. Army from 1965-1967 before joining ITW. Farrell and his wife, Max, reside in Lake Forest, IL.
He can be reached at (847) 482-0500.