Fred G. Steingraber
Back in 1939, when J.O. McKinsey took a job at Marshall Fields, his fledgling consulting business split in two. McKinsey [...]
May 1 1994 by Kathleen Murray
Back in 1939, when J.O. McKinsey took a job at Marshall Fields, his fledgling consulting business split in two. McKinsey & Co. in New York courted top executives and cultivated a “blue-chip” clientele, while A.T. Kearney stayed in Chicago, earning a reputation as a “brown-suit” firm that specialized in advising middle managers of manufacturing companies.
But these days, Kearney CEO Fred G. Steingraber is recrafting the company’s cachet and marketing its services more aggressively. “Kearney has suffered because it was not driven by a vision or deliberate strategy,” says Steingraber, 55, who took over in 1985. “These days companies need someone who can get in there and work with top executives and their underlings.”
Under Steingraber, Kearney partners face a level of introspection that traditionally had been reserved for clients. For example, client companies rate the firm’s work. “That used to be anathema to our profession,” says Steingraber. “The partners were worried it might cause the client to think we were insecure.”
To corral talent in strategic planning, executive search, and other areas, Steingraber broke another unwritten tenet of the clubby consulting profession by opening the doors to outsiders. In the last four years, two-thirds of Kearney‘s newly minted partners had spent the majority of their careers at other firms.
The effort has paid off in double-digit growth over the past decade. Kearney‘s revenues surged 28 percent last year to $265 million, with some 58 percent of the total coming from overseas. Steingraber sees opportunities in the deregulation of European industries and the breakup of conglomerates in Asia.
Many companies still tap McKinsey based on its reputation, Steingraber acknowledges. Though he maintains the situation is changing rapidly, Kearney still has a way to go. “It takes a long time to lose an image,” he says. “Our challenge is to get more chances.”