Thursday, 2 July 2009

Business Consultants: Big Business Through the Ages

You may not be aware that today’s business consultants come from a long background of pioneers who offered their valuable services to the business community. In fact, the first consultants can give credit to some amazing, forward-thinking trailblazers from as far back as the 1880s. Take a look at this brief history outlining how business consultants and their jobs have changed over the years. 1880s Over a century ago, people were just beginning to examine business and the way it works. The book, Principles of Economics, was released – one of the first to determine that supply and demand was a major factor in success. Frederick Taylor becomes the first business consultant in the manufacturing industry using principles of Scientific Management. The Emerson Company becomes the first generalised consulting firm that resembles those of today. 1900s The early part of the century witnessed the birth of the first business schools at Harvard and New York University. Bricklaying Systems is published; it detailed the most efficient processes to lay brick and was used as the basis for later consulting methodology. Charles Dawes becomes the first government consultant. 1920s – 1930s Leading UK business consultant Lyndall Urwick publishes The Elements of Administration, which details his experiences offering management advice to factory executives. George S. May becomes famous for advocating commission-based marketing. A firm researches the effect of lighting in worker’s environments on productivity. The Great Depression keeps business consultants busy. Problem solving and clients become the focus of most consultancies. 1940s – 1950s Business and government converge as ex-military officers take over the practice of consulting. Ernest Butten starts his own consultancy firm and advocates the PA Method of Training – still a viable resource for new product development. Future giant Price Waterhouse initiates a consulting department in the rapidly growing firm. The concept of hiring top students from universities becomes an accepted business practice. 1960s For the first time, women begin to start careers as business consultants, buoyed by the success of Harvard’s business school and the new policy to admit women. Experience curve and growth-share matrix are added to the corporate lexicon and the focus becomes market strategy. The Stockholm School of Economics researches organisational behaviour. Shareholder value becomes an important part of a business plan. 1980s Corporate executives turn to the book In Search of Excellence to guide their market strategies and achieve success. Computers in the office become more common, but few executives are trained how to use them – opening the door for business consultants to step in and help. 1990s Salaries of business consultants continue to rise and many firms snap up newly-graduated MBAs. Top talent is in great demand. Price Waterhouse and Coopers merge and experience phenomenal growth in their consultancy branch through a focus on IT and implementation-oriented consulting. Today, business consultants are still in high demand. In fact, as global economies continue to falter, the need for their services is higher than ever. Thanks to those first business men and women who began to study the processes and principles that make a company successful, business consultants have helped shaped modern corporations and the world as we know it today.