How Did I Get Here?

Bill Cobb

President and chief executive officer, H&R Block Inc.
  • Education
  • St. Rose High School, Belmar, N.J., class of 1974
  • The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, class of 1978
  • Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, Evanston, Ill., class of 1979
  • Work Experience
  • 1979–83
    Product manager, Colgate-Palmolive
  • 1983–86
    Marketing director, Jeno’s Pizza Frozen Food
  • 1987–95
    Marketing director, vice president for new business, VP for colas, PepsiCo
  • 1995–97
    SVP and chief marketing officer for Pizza Hut, PepsiCo
  • 1997–2000
    SVP for international marketing, Tricon Global Restaurants
  • 2000
    Head of sales and marketing, Netpliance
  • 2000–08
    SVP of global marketing, general manager for international, president for North America, EBay
  • 2011–Present
    President and CEO, H&R Block
  • Life Lessons
  • “There are so many leadership books on hiring, but it’s all about the chemistry you build on the team.”
  • “Have a no-blame culture. When things go wrong, learn from it and fix it.”
  • “Communicate early, often, and broadly.”
  • At Wharton graduation
    “I suddenly started to view a larger world. It was my nonbusiness courses: sociology, Russian history. I realized that there is more to life than the New York area.”
  • With his father, William, on the Pizza Hut corporate jet, 1996
    “These were the days of stuffed-crust pizza, and we did a fun ad with Deion Sanders and Jerry Jones about eating a slice backwards.”
  • “I took a wrong turn. The Nasdaq was going crazy, and I jumped for money, which is the worst decision you can make. The product didn’t work, and it was one of those cut-your-losses [situations].”
  • With his wife and three sons in Bay Harbor, Mich., 2015
  • “I had no idea what anybody was talking about for the first two weeks. I said to myself, Look, you’ve had a successful career, you have confidence in yourself, you’re going to figure this out.”
  • “I was 27. It was a $200 million company with national advertising, and I got to lead a team. Then it got sold to Pillsbury.”
  • “The culture of Pepsi-Cola was defined by ‘We hate Coke.’ I did a bunch of Super Bowl advertising, including the one about the kid who got sucked into a Pepsi bottle on the beach. Pepsi had big budgets, and it was a lot of fun.”
  • “That was my first international assignment, and I just loved it. I had to have a broader business perspective, and that has helped me greatly.”
  • In a promotional shot for EBay (second from left), 2003
  • “We’re looking to reinvent virtually everything we do. This tax season we’re introducing H&R Block With Watson, an in-store experience that ingests a client’s first conversation with a tax pro about recent happenings—home purchases, marriages, births—and highlights the tax implications.”