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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

Kathleen Duffy

President & CEO

Duffy Group, Inc.

Location: Phoenix

Founded: 1991

Industry: Recruiting

In 1991, Kathleen Duffy made the bold decision to start her own business, Duffy Group, after serving as the director of research for a boutique executive search firm. Despite the uncertain economic climate at the time, Duffy leveraged her network and relationships to secure a client base.

Duffy’s unique approach to recruiting set Duffy Group apart from traditional firms. She introduced the innovative Recruitment Research model, which harnessed market intelligence and delivered quality candidates with significant cost savings compared to traditional recruitment fees.

Under Duffy’s leadership, the business has quadrupled since 2015, and 80% of its revenues come from repeat clients. Duffy places great importance on the well-being of her team, fostering a culture of inclusiveness, acceptance and shared values, the company said. Duffy Group employees have consistently expressed high approval rates for leadership and the company’s commitment to work-life balance.

“As I lead my staff, I pay special attention to their emotions. I may kick off a one-on-one meeting by asking, ‘How are you feeling today?’ or ‘What’s on your mind?’, which invites staff members to share how things are going personally and at work,” Duffy said. “I also seek collaboration opportunities by first looking inward and cultivating humility. This sometimes requires a change in mindset, but it pays dividends in building relationships cemented in trust.”

Duffy envisions Duffy Group’s Recruitment Research model becoming a recognized and respected alternative to traditional search methods. By 2030, she aims for Duffy Group to be recognized as the elite firm for Recruitment Research, catering to a range of industries and roles. Her vision is to raise the bar in recruiting, making the process of unearthing and hiring candidates efficient, effective and economical.

Duffy believes in giving back to the community and actively supports various charitable causes. Duffy and her team contribute hundreds of hours annually to initiatives focused on talent development, women’s empowerment and addressing pressing community issues. She is involved in organizations such as the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Arizona Commerce Authority and the National Association of Women Business Owners. She also serves as a mentor to social entrepreneurs through SEED SPOT, guiding and supporting those who aim to make a positive impact on the world.

Duffy is co-chair of the No Longer Homeless Campaign cabinet, a two-phased initiative to ensure that resources are available and accessible to veterans to help end the growing cycle of homelessness. She also served as national district coordinator and president of the Moon Valley chapter of National Charity League, designed to build character and a deep bond with family and community through service and volunteer activities for mothers and their daughters in grades 7–12.

As a proud graduate of Arizona State University, she is deeply committed to education, too, creating universal learners as a member of ASU’s board of trustees The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council.

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In the late 60s, Duffy lived in the Marshall Islands. She wore shorts and, if there was swim class, a bathing suit to school. Girls in the states were required to wear dresses.  Hula dancing classes were a must. Today, she can still dance the hukilau and pearly shells.  


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