Leadership Takes Guts With Jim Kavanaugh, CEO and Co-Founder of World Wide Technology

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“Sometimes there are risks that you need to take when you truly believe that is the right thing to do.”  

Jim Kavanaugh knows a thing or two about rising to the occasion. As the CEO and Co-Founder of World Wide Technology – an organization that provides global technology solutions and services – he’s had to prove his mettle more than once. Tune in to this episode of Business X Factors to hear about how this St. Louis-based company became a global tech leader, and why Jim Kavanaugh believes the best leaders are the ones forged in fire.

Key Insights


Why is it important to choose your team wisely? 

When a business is starting out, it might be tempting to take every hand that’s offered. After all, entrepreneurship is never an easy road. But it’s important, even in difficult times, to choose your partners wisely. Keep your circle small, and make sure that those you interact with are there for the right reasons. 

“In the very early stages we had another owner of the business… [who] talked a good game but didn’t demonstrate that with a level of integrity. And so, because that individual just happened to be my boss and the larger owner of the business, I chose to figure out a way to fire him.”

Why does culture matter so much? 

Having a great product is a good thing, but it’s not everything. According to Kavanaugh, the culture and the people at World Wide Technology is what makes it the giant that it is.  

“The number one factor for World Wide is our culture and our people: period… it is what allowed World Wide to get through some really tough, challenging times in the early years –  that came shining through when we just needed to roll up our sleeves and show an incredible amount of grit and determination to grind through some times that really appeared to be, almost so bleak that we’re not going to survive. At the same time where we are today – almost a $16 billion company and projected to be greater than that this year –  it is still all about our people and our culture.” 

Anticipation is Key 

If you’re not looking ahead, you’re already behind. In the business world – and in life – you should always be thinking about your next steps. For tech, that next step is software. 

 “The puck is going into software. It’s not abandoning hardware and infrastructure and platforms, but it’s going more into this digital transformation.”

About the Guest:

“Jim Kavanaugh is the co-founder and CEO of World Wide Technology (WWT), a $13 billion information technology systems integrator. Kavanaugh and his management team have guided WWT from a small start-up technology company into a world-class organization with more than 7,000 employees.

In the early years, Kavanaugh solidified WWT’s financial position through profitable growth and a $27.5 million venture capital investment, which was repaid in 2005.  Kavanaugh currently focuses his time in the areas of technology innovation, long-term planning, strategic acquisitions, financial performance, employee development and passionately overseeing WWT’s unique corporate culture. Prior to founding WWT, Kavanaugh worked at Future Electronics and played professional soccer. He received his Bachelor of Science in business administration from Saint Louis University in 1986.

Kavanaugh has won numerous business, entrepreneurial and charitable awards over the years and earned a position in Saint Louis University’s Smurfit-Stone Entrepreneurial Alumni Hall of Fame.  He was recognized by Glassdoor as the #2 ranked CEO in 2017 for all large businesses in the U.S. He was also included on Glassdoor’s Highest Rated CEOs During the COVID-19 Crisis list in 2020 and ranked #24 on the Top CEO list in 2021. Kavanaugh is honored that WWT has been included in the 2021 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list by Great Place to Work for 10 consecutive years.

Kavanaugh is an investor and board member of cybersecurity firm Privoro and a member of Business Roundtable. He has also been a trustee of the board for his alma mater, St. Louis University since 2010. Deeply committed to giving back to the community, Kavanaugh served as president of the board for St. Patrick Center, an organization that provides services for homeless Missourians.  Kavanaugh is a current member of the American Cancer Society’s CEOs Against Cancer of Missouri – St. Louis Chapter. Jim led a $9.1 million capital campaign, enabling the Society to renovate and remodel Hope Lodge St. Louis, a free home away from home for patients and their caregivers, which was renamed the World Wide Technology Hope Lodge in 2020. Additionally, he has supported many local and national charitable organizations such as ALS Association, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Toys for Tots, Cardinal Glennon, Junior Achievement, and United Way.

Kavanaugh was chairman and founder of Saint Louis FC, which played in the United Soccer League and served as chairman of Scott Gallagher Soccer Club. He is an investor owner in the St. Louis Blues and an investor owner in St. Louis City SC, a new Major League Soccer franchise.

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Episode 51