Jim Parker

Speech Topics

Jim tells the story of how the culture of an organization can be a great benefit in good economic times and is absolutely essential in bad economic times. He stresses the “round earth” principle where “what goes ‘round comes ‘round”…if you develop a respect and appreciation for your employees, they will do the same with your customers. And when times are tough, that respect and appreciation transcend a purchasing consumer’s decision to save money…to one where they will spend money on that product or service from a company that they have an emotional attachment to. Parker tells story after story of customers who did not ask for refunds after 9/11…instead they told Southwest employees “that the airline needed the money more than they did”…and more customers who actually sent money to Southwest in the days and weeks following 9/11 for the same reasons.


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Jim Parker is a lawyer by trade, having received both his undergraduate and law degrees from The University of Texas. After serving as law clerk to a federal judge and as an Assistant Attorney General of Texas, Jim joined the San Antonio law firm of Oppenheimer, Rosenberg, Kelleher, and Wheatley. As luck would have it, one of the co-founders of that law firm, Herb Kelleher, also co-founded a small Texas airline called Southwest, and Jim soon stumbled into the airline industry. After serving as outside counsel for Southwest for seven years, Jim became General Counsel for 15 years, and ultimately served as Southwest’s CEO for three years.

During Jim’s tenure as CEO, Southwest was named as the most admired airline, and one of the three most admired companies in America by Fortune magazine; Airline of the Year by Air Transport World magazine; and one of the World’s Most Socially Responsible Companies by Global Finance magazine. Jim was also named co-CEO of the Year in 2001 by Morningstar.com, and was named to Institutional Investor’s list of Best CEO’s in America in 2004. Jim’s proudest accomplishment, however, comes from the fact that Southwest Airlines was able to protect the jobs of all of its employees, with no furloughs or pay cuts in the aftermath of 9/11, while also remaining profitable every year and, in fact, every quarter during his tenure as CEO. Jim is presently retired from the airline industry, and serves on the Board of Directors of the successful Texas Roadhouse restaurant company, and also serves on the Advisory Council for the MIT Sloan Business School Leadership Center.


Jim is also the author of the book Do the Right Thing – How Dedicated Employees Produce Loyal Customers and Large Profits, published by Wharton School Publishing.


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