By Lori Kilberg, partner

Last Thursday, attendees at CREW Atlanta’s December breakfast program enjoyed quite a treat.  As one of my last acts as CREW Atlanta President, I had the honor  of interviewing Carol Tomé, chief financial officer and executive vice president at The Home Depot.

Carol Tome & Lori KilbergThe discussion focused on leadership and Tomé shared stories about her personal journey, obstacles and successes. She said her formula for success is to be truly passionate about what you do and to surround yourself with a team that is committed, motivated and equally passionate [(and very, very smart!)].

Our chat included an update on The Home Depot, which was particularly interesting to me since the company is a long-time Hartman Simons client. At Hartman Simons, we work on new store and outparcel development for The Home Depot. According to Tomé, one of the current real estate challenges is finding creative ways to use excess property. One solution has been constructing cell towers on several sites.

Despite the distressed economic climate, Tomé believes The Home Depot has done an excellent job getting associates to buy into the vision for great customer service and making the most of a down market through collaboration.  She attributes this success in part to The Home Depot’s policy requiring every executive to spend time working in the store.

Tomé is not exempt from this rule and has worn an orange apron. She told attendees a story about a customer she encountered purchasing a wheelbarrow. The woman was concerned about getting the wheelbarrow home so Tomé helped load the wheelbarrow into the customer’s car, followed the woman home and helped unload the purchase. The woman was so grateful she offered Tomé a jar of homemade jam. Tomé said she couldn’t accept a tip, and went on her way. Several weeks later, the company received a letter from the woman praising the associate in the red-rimmed glasses. Little did she know the company’s CFO had been her helpful associate.

Tomé has held several key positions in the public and private sector. Currently, she provides leadership in the areas of real estate, store construction, financial services and strategic business development and growth initiatives for The Home Depot. In 2009, the CFO Roundtable recognized Tomé as CFO of the year. She also serves on the board of  UPS and chairs the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. She ranked 16th in Forbes magazine’s 2008 list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women and was included in The Wall Street Journal’s list of 50 Women to Watch in 2007.

Tomé is an active volunteer. She serves as a member of The Committee of 200 and a member of the Atlanta Botanical Garden board of directors. She will chair the board of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce in 2012.