“I always worked in a team culture and, as CEO, worked hard to
establish and maintain a good team environment. It was a key rea-son
we were so successful at Calvin Klein.”
He says he always had an HR partner who was his right hand
in many ways, helping to nurture a positive culture and find peo-ple
who were the right fit for the team. “We developed almost a
sixth sense about who would fit in, enjoy being part of our team
and prosper. I relied heavily on my HR partner because she knew
exactly who worked out, who didn’t and why. We applied our
learnings and got better at it over the years.”
KNOWING WHEN TO WALK AWAY
FROM THE WRONG FIT
Murry’s sixth sense for fit was honed earlier in his career – particu-larly
when he had to make a tough (and unpopular) decision based
on nothing but instinct.
Starting out in sales at Head Ski and Tennis Wear, the CEO
recognized Murry’s potential and quickly promoted him to head
of merchandising. This meant that all designers reported to him.
“The head designer was 45 and I was in early 20s. It didn’t take
long to realize that I was in over my head,” he said.
After floundering for a short time, he decided to have a difficult
conversation with the CEO. “I told him that I was flattered that he
thought I could do the job, but I wasn’t ready, and it wasn’t fair to
the company, to him or to me.
“He said, ‘Tom, it’s either sink or swim.’ And I said, ‘Or swim
away,’ but he didn’t think that was funny.”
Murry ultimately went back to sales and continued growing.
“I learned a lot in sales because you have to listen. It was a great
growing experience.” When he went back into merchandising, he
was more mature and was able to apply what he’d learned in sales.
“When it comes to finding the right fit, you have to know
what your limitations are and be realistic. Sometimes you should
just hang in there and make sure that you get it right eventu-ally,
but sometimes the leap is too big. It’s important to know
hr career path
Another piece of wisdom that came from his youth was the advice
to “keep going” no matter what. “Someone very smart said that to
me when I was young, and I never forgot it.
“Work is not always going to be fun and you’re going to run
into difficult times in your life, everyone does, in their career or
personal life, but you have to dust yourself off and keep going,”
Despite his career success, Murry says he experienced his
share of failure when he had to put into practice his one-foot-in-front-
of-the-other mantra. One memorable setback was when he
purchased Intuitions with a partner without doing the proper due
diligence. The business ended in failure and he was discouraged
“I was 40 years old at the time and had been successful in
everything before that. We looked at each other and said, ‘This
is not going to work. We’re going to have to close this down and
Murry took off for a head-clearing run and returned with a
new strategy and go-forward plan. He reached out to a recruiting
company and began entertaining multiple offers before choos-ing
to work for Tahari. “From that day forward I didn’t look back.
Everything from then on was onward and upward.”
Although it was a difficult time, he says the misstep was a learn-ing
opportunity he wouldn’t have wanted to change.
Murry believes in optimism and the long-term. “I’ve always
been a positive person, perhaps I was born with it and it’s part of
the reason for my success. If it’s not natural, you have to try hard
to achieve that attitude because it’ll make everything easier and
Since he retired from Calvin Klein in 2015, Murry’s had time to
reflect on the highs and lows of a career and a life well lived. His
forthcoming book, A Great Fit, offers insights into what went into
the successes and challenges in his life.
From an oil rig to the boardroom, sometimes the right fit is all a
matter of perspective. n
“A GREAT FIT GOES BEYOND
LIKING YOUR JOB OR BEING
COMPETENT – IT’S A PLACE
WHERE YOU BELONG, WHERE
YOUR TALENTS ARE BOTH
FULLY EXPRESSED AND
NEEDED, AND WHERE YOU
CAN SERVE THE GREATEST
NUMBER OF PEOPLE.”
– TOM MURRY, FORMER CEO, CALVIN KLEIN
Photo courtesy of Tom Murry
HRPROFESSIONALNOW.CA ❚ FEBRUARY 2019 ❚ 37