"Hey, yankee boy!" called the teenage girl with a Georgia drawl. It was 14-year-old Daniel Reardon's first day in an unfamiliar new school and state – Riverside High, in Sandy Springs, Georgia – and he thought the cute young girl's dulcet accent was the prettiest thing he'd ever heard.
"It turns out she was actually poking fun at me," laughed the Scheller College graduate (BS 1986), who grew up in the small, upstate farming community of New City, about a half hour north of New York City, and moved with his family to metro Atlanta in 1977. "But I didn't care so much because it sounded so nice."
Reardon has long since shed his newcomer status of some 35 years ago to become firmly established as one of Atlanta's top business leaders and a staunch supporter of Tech's Scheller College of Business.
Leading Consulting Company
As CEO of North Highland, a top-drawer consulting company headquartered in Buckhead, Reardon oversees a $650 million operation with 2,300 employees in 50 offices located in the U.S., Asia and Europe. In its most recent annual survey, Consulting magazine ranked North Highland no. 3 overall among the best firms to work for, its sixth consecutive year in the top four.
It wasn't always this way.
When Reardon joined the company in 1997, North Highland employed 25 people in a single office. Annual revenues amounted to a modest $2 million. About a year later, he was named president and chief operating officer, and North Highland's rise began to gain momentum. He was named CEO in 2005.
Reardon credits North Highland's spectacular growth to several factors, beginning with the quality of the Tech graduates he recruits.
"We hire a lot of MBAs from the Scheller College, and they're awesome," said Reardon, who serves on the college's advisory board. "In fact, we hire more people from Tech than from anywhere else in the country."
Committed to Tech
He said that his experience with these new graduates, along with Georgia Tech's commitment to strengthening its business education curriculum, persuaded him to support endowments to help fund the Scheller College's MBA program and make "a good business education even stronger at Georgia Tech."
"Tech teaches you to be tenacious and stay focused, and in this business that's a big deal," he elaborated. "I learned how to set goals, and I don't give up until we get there – although you have to change your tactics along the way."
In other words, Reardon doesn't take success for granted. North Highland fine-tunes business operations every time it achieves a major annual-revenue benchmark such as $10 million, $50 million, and so forth. "Now we're at $650 million in total global revenue, so we're in the middle of re-organizing the way we run the business," he explained.
"Not many companies get to go from $2 million to $650 million with the same core management team, but that's what we've done here," he added. "We've added people along the way, but it's pretty much the same core team that has made this journey."
Another unusual aspect of North Highland is that it is 100-percent employee owned through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. "Everybody works very hard, and everybody gets the reward because we're all equity owners in the company," Reardon noted. "It's a tremendously unifying element within the organization. It takes a lot of the ego out of the system because we don't have any one owner. It's a hugely powerful way to run a professional service business."
Prior to joining North Highland, Reardon spent 10 years with Arthur Andersen, including two years based in London, where he met his future wife, Garnet, an artist who hails from Belfast, Northern Ireland. The couple has a daughter, Nicole, a recent Scheller College graduate, and a son, Miles, who entered Tech this fall, also a business major. Another daughter, Zoe, is a student at The International School.