Now that "eight"
has become "four," agile newcomers like Chicago-based
Huron Consulting Group occupy a more prominent role. But doing
so demands technical acumen and the people skills to forge
relationships inside and outside a fast-growing company.
"What has evolved in
the last 10 or 15 years is firms like us: smaller, very focused,
very high-value," says Mukesh Gangwal '84. He
is a managing director in Huron's healthcare practice, a "huge
focus" for the company, which also offers a diversified
portfolio of services across industries. Consulting has been
a market-facing business, says the former Arthur Andersen
partner, but now clients demand even more.
"Not only do you need
to be uniquely qualified to the segment you are serving, but
the market is looking for you to be a trusted adviser,"
says Gangwal, citing the Kellogg School's team-oriented environment
as providing critical holistic tools for modern consulting.
"It's not only technical skills that are important. It
is also the softer skills that build trust based on integrity."
That combination has served
Huron well since being launched in 2002 by a core of former
Andersen talent, including Gary E. Holdren, current
chairman, president and CEO. Huron has built its business
from 213 people and $35 million in revenues to one that today
boasts more 1,200 employees in 11 U.S. cities and a Tokyo
office. Revenues now top $285 million.
Huron went public in October
2004 and has attracted attention: Entrepreneur magazine
ranked the firm No. 1 on its Hot 100 list for 2005 and 2006,
while BusinessWeek placed it at No. 22 on its Hot 100
Growth Companies for 2007. Consulting Magazine has
called the company one of the 10 best to work for and Modern
Healthcare regards Huron as No. 3 on its 2007 list of
the largest healthcare management consultants. It has made
several strategic acquisitions, such as earlier this year
with healthcare strategic specialist Wellspring Partners.
Growth is good, says Holdren,
but it's not the only thing. The goal is creating a sustainable
enterprise that delivers great client results while staying
engaged with the community and its employees. Achieving this
means establishing a strong corporate culture around the idea
that "individuals go fast and teams go far," says
Holdren, who sets a community-spirited example by serving
on the boards of several Chicago organizations, including
the Lyric Opera, Children's Memorial Hospital and the Economic
"The question is,"
he says, "can you put all these really smart 'A-type'
people together and give them the incentive that makes them
want to achieve something as a team that is worth more than
their individual accomplishments?"
Yes, if the right core values
drive the organization. Holdren says Huron's entrepreneurial
and team culture sets it apart from other firms whose credo
is "eat what you can kill."
"There are organizations
like that. That's one culture. That's not my training or background,"
he adds, referencing the values of his father, an auto parts
entrepreneur, who taught him "that if you don't treat
your people and clients well, you have nothing."
He adds: "I'm talking
about principles. It doesn't mean that we don't really push
our people to make sales."
Huron employs several Kellogg
graduates, suggesting that the school's team-focused approach
offers value. Paul Saias '94, another Huron managing
director in the firm's corporate consulting practice, says
his Kellogg skills have proven foundational. "The key
in consulting remains your ability to put the best team in
front of your client," says the former A.T. Kearney consultant.
For him, the diverse Kellogg student body and the school's
academics made his MBA experience "a great learning ground."
In consulting, getting along
with a variety of people is essential, since you may be working
together on a project for months, Saias adds. Also prized
is keen analytical ability. "The job comes down to thinking
about very complex issues and sorting them in a short time,
often with imperfect information," he says. "You
typically cannot solve the client's problem unless you can
rely upon other people in your team and across Huron."
Huron's CEO aims to continue
the firm's relationship with the community, including the
Kellogg School, which he calls "a great institution,"
one whose graduates seem well suited to the Huron culture.
"We really take pride
in the kind of people we're attracting," says Holdren.