February 28, 2008
Brian J. Farrell ('78) Guides Strategy and Execution at Game Maker THQ
Has served as CEO since 1995
By Phil Norman ('08)
Brian Farrell ('78) started his career at Deloitte and Touche, then joined Hotel Investors Trust where he became CFO. In 1995, Farrell joined THQ where he now serves as Chairman, President and CEO.
THQ is one of the fastest growing video game publishers in the world and Farrell has been instrumental in enabling this growth. Since taking over as CEO in 1995, THQ has had twelve consecutive years of net sales growth, with a twelve-year compound annual revenue growth rate of 44%. A big part of Farrell's strategy has been to focus and invest heavily in game design. "To compete in our industry, we have to do two things really well. First, we have to identify a game mechanic, character and universe that will resonate with game players, and then we have to execute that vision at a high level of quality. Of course, we need solid market positioning and a global sales force, but if we execute well on the game, the rest is a lot easier. You can't market your way out of a bad game."
Farrell loves the varied nature of his job. "I need to set strategy, yet focus on execution. The variation that comes with touching all the relevant parts of the organization, from product development to sales and marketing, from finance to global operations, keeps me charged up and interested. I love the convergence of creative and technology in the videogame space."
If he had more time, Farrell says he would probably try to play more video games, the benefit of working at company such as THQ. Right now, though, he spends most of his time focusing on navigating the highly competitive industry landscape. If he wasn't spending all his time as a busy CEO, Farrell would probably be tending a vineyard somewhere with his wife. Wine is a passion of theirs, although for the time being he remarks that he is going to have to remain on the "drinking side of the equation."
Farrell has always maintained a high level of interaction with UCLA Anderson. "The Anderson degree has been instrumental in my career. I've not used the Anderson network as much as I could have, but am doing more now as a member of the Price Center Board and the Board of Visitors. It's been great utilizing what we used to call Field Study teams for projects here at THQ. We've been very pleased with the results."
Farrell took full advantage of his time at Anderson. He looks back fondly at the great learning experience coupled with the exposure to real world executives. He frequently participated in the Days on the Job and many of the networking brown bag lunches and dinners, providing him access to local leaders like David Geffen. It wasn't all books and resumes, however. Some of his most memorable moments come from the personal relationships he built then that still continue to this day. He adds, "the parties we had at a home some guys rented on Beverly Glen are still part of Anderson legend."
Farrell offers some advice for budding MBAs. "First, pay attention to classes like strategic planning and human resources. As you move up, these skills become more important than technical skills.
"Don't be afraid to start with very broad career goals," he continues. "Refine them as you get more experience. Life doesn't go in a straight line.
"And to budding entrepreneurs," he counsels, "a liquidity event is a sale, not going public. Too many businesses want to go public for the wrong reasons." Perhaps a topic for conversation over a glass of wine.
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