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One of the world’s most recognized authorities at putting the customer front and center, Bill McDermott is widely credited for turning around tech giant SAP’s American unit. The CEO of the world’s largest business software company started his career as a teenager balancing three hourly-wage jobs in order to save up money to buy a small delicatessen in his community, a working class neighborhood in Long Island.

Even at a young age, McDermott displayed a gift for filling needs that no one else was addressing. His unique credit program, delivery service, video game room, and respectful attitude propelled his tiny deli ahead of the giant franchises that surrounded him. He applied everything he learned from the corner store to his post college career at Xerox where he worked his way from sales to becoming the youngest division president in company history.

As co-CEO and now the sole CEO of SAP, his down-to-earth attitude and concern for employee life-work balance make him one of the most popular bosses in the world. He’s been ranked as the #2 CEO on glassdoor.com with a 99% approval rating. His memoir, Winners Dream, is an enjoyable and inspiring read due to his relatable attitude and underdog tale.

In 2015, McDermott almost died after falling down a staircase in his brother’s home while carrying a glass of water. The glass smashed into his face, causing him to lose an eye and nearly bleed to death. McDermott quickly recovered, and the incident inspired him to make digitalizing health records a new focus at SAP.

McDermott is currently working on a second book about overcoming adversity.

Full Profile

    Bill McDermott was appointed co-CEO of SAP alongside Jim Hagemann Snabe on February 7, 2010. In this capacity, and also as a member of the Executive Board of SAP, he oversees SAP′s strategic business activities relative to all customer operations, sales, marketing, communications, field services, consulting, corporate development, and ecosystem activities.

    As the world′s leading provider of business software, SAP is an over 64 billion company with more than 14 billion in revenue in 2011. SAP′s more than 55,000 employees and its vast ecosystem enable 183,000 customers of all sizes in more than 25 industries and 130 countries worldwide. SAP AG is headquartered in Walldorf, Germany, and McDermott is based at the company′s North American headquarters location in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.

    McDermott was first named to the SAP Executive Board in 2008 to manage global field operations, a responsibility he continues to maintain as co-CEO. During this time, McDermott has been instrumental in re-architecting the company′s go-to-market strategy, closely aligning the field organizations, and product development teams led by co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe.

    Prior to this role on the SAP Executive Board, he led SAP′s operations in the Americas (United States, Canada, and Latin America) and Asia-Pacific Japan regions. Since his arrival in 2002, the company has delivered unparalleled growth in market share, revenue, and customer satisfaction in key markets.

    Before joining SAP, McDermott served as executive vice president of Worldwide Sales & Operations at Siebel Systems, and president of Gartner, Inc., where he led the company′s core operations. He spent 17 years at Xerox Corporation, where he progressively rose through the ranks to become the company′s youngest corporate officer and division president. He also served on the board of directors for two company subsidiaries. In 1997, through his leadership, McDermott′s division received the Malcolm Baldrige Award, presented annually by the President of the United States to businesses judged to be outstanding in several areas.

    McDermott is a member of several external boards, including the boards of ANSYS, a company that designs and develops engineering simulation solutions used to predict how product designs will behave in manufacturing and real-world environments; and Under Armour, a performance apparel company dedicated to technologically advanced products. He is a member of the National Advisory Board for KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) and the Advisory Board for Villanova University.

    In November 2010, as part of Computer Reseller News (CRN) magazine′s annual recognition of the Top 100 executives in information technology, McDermott was named among the Top 25 Most Influential Executives of 2010. Additionally, McDermott was named to the Irish America magazine′s 2010 Business 100 for outstanding business leadership.

    McDermott is an active community leader and advocate for corporate social responsibility. In 2008, he was named “Idealist of the Year” by City Year Greater Philadelphia for his civic leadership and “commitment to improving the community and the lives of those who live in Philadelphia.” In 2006, McDermott received the Yitzhak Rabin Public Services Award in recognition of his contributions as a civic leader who has demonstrated a commitment to Israel as a source of technological innovation. In 2005, McDermott was elected to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world′s largest business federation representing three million companies and organizations, and to the Chamber Foundation Board.

    McDermott received an MBA in business management from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, and he completed the Executive Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania′s Wharton Graduate School of Management. He received his bachelor′s degree in business management from Dowling College.


Bill McDermott Speaker Videos Back to top

Bill McDermott: BCIT Moderated Conversation


SAP CEO Bill McDermott shares the most important lesson that he learned from his first business: “the customer is everything.” When McDermott opened up a small deli in the middle of several well-established franchises, he knew that in order to do well, he would have to offer something different from his competitors – meaning he would have to do something of value that no one else was doing.

McDermott carefully analyzed each of his target market groups to figure out what unique service he could implement to improve their lives. He won over senior citizens with a delivery service, secured the blue-collar worker market by creating a credit program, and became the preferred choice of teens due to his video game room and trusting rapport. “To underscore why I know I’m right on the customer being the most important thing,” he adds, “ one day a kid said to me, ‘Bill, when we want to have good food, play video games, and be treated with respect, we come to your store. And when we want to steal stuff, we go to 7-Eleven.’”

Bill McDermott speaks at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business


Technology and Global Growth: A Conversation with Bill McDermott



Speeches / Speaking Engagements Back to top


From the corner store to the corporate world, Bill McDermott shares the lessons he’s learned on building your business around your customer, differentiating your brand, and mobilizing teams both big and small to make things happen. The CEO, who is widely admired for turning around SAP’s withering performance and low morale in the U.S., discusses how you can develop and implement strategies across your organization that engage consumers, spur competitive advantage, and set your brand apart. A true rags-to-riches story, McDermott demonstrates the value of optimism, hard work, and never forgetting your roots.

    HP Discover NOW
    Hear Bill McDermott talk about how SAP and HP are accelerating innovation together around three megatrends: mobile, big data, and the cloud. Discover how companies need to bring their business in the moment by digitizing end to end to get closer to the customer.

    Other Suggested Topics:

    • Re-engineering a Corporation
    • Customer Service
    • Change Management
    • Leadership
    • Innovation




* Please note that while this speaker’s specific speaking fee falls within the range posted above (for Continental U.S. based events), fees are subject to change. For current fee information or international event fees (which are generally 50-75% more than U.S based event fees), please contact us.

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Winners Dream
A leadership and career manifesto told through the narrative of one of today’s most inspiring, admired, and successful global leaders.

In Winners Dream, Bill McDermott—the CEO of the world’s largest business software company, SAP—chronicles how relentless optimism, hard work, and disciplined execution embolden people and equip organizations to achieve audacious goals.

Growing up in working-class Long Island, a sixteen-year-old Bill traded three hourly wage jobs to buy a small deli, which he ran by instinctively applying ideas that would be the seeds for his future success. After paying for and graduating college, Bill talked his way into a job selling copiers door-to-door for Xerox, where he went on to rank number one in every sales position he held and eventually became the company’s youngest-ever corporate officer. Eventually, Bill left Xerox and in 2002 became the unlikely president of SAP’s flailing American business unit. There, he injected enthusiasm and accountability into the demoralized culture by scaling his deli, sales, and management strategies. In 2010, Bill was named co-CEO, and in May 2014 became SAP’s sole, and first non-European, CEO.

Colorful and fast-paced, Bill’s anecdotes contain effective takeaways: gutsy career moves; empathetic sales strategies; incentives that yield exceptional team performance; and proof of the competitive advantages of optimism and hard work. At the heart of Bill’s story is a blueprint for success and the knowledge that the real dream is the journey, not a preconceived destination.

    HP Discover NOW
    Hear Bill McDermott talk about how SAP and HP are accelerating innovation together around three megatrends: mobile, big data, and the cloud. Discover how companies need to bring their business in the moment by digitizing end to end to get closer to the customer.

    Other Suggested Topics:

    • Re-engineering a Corporation
    • Customer Service
    • Change Management
    • Leadership
    • Innovation


Bill McDermott: BCIT Moderated Conversation


SAP CEO Bill McDermott shares the most important lesson that he learned from his first business: “the customer is everything.” When McDermott opened up a small deli in the middle of several well-established franchises, he knew that in order to do well, he would have to offer something different from his competitors – meaning he would have to do something of value that no one else was doing.

McDermott carefully analyzed each of his target market groups to figure out what unique service he could implement to improve their lives. He won over senior citizens with a delivery service, secured the blue-collar worker market by creating a credit program, and became the preferred choice of teens due to his video game room and trusting rapport. “To underscore why I know I’m right on the customer being the most important thing,” he adds, “ one day a kid said to me, ‘Bill, when we want to have good food, play video games, and be treated with respect, we come to your store. And when we want to steal stuff, we go to 7-Eleven.’”

Bill McDermott speaks at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business


Technology and Global Growth: A Conversation with Bill McDermott