Corrections or additions?
Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 7, 2000. All rights
How information is collected and formatted — that’s
one of the overlooked issues of today’s digital economy, says Quinn
Spitzer, former CEO of Kepner-Tregoe, the 40-year-old consulting
firm located off of Route 518. He and another Kepner-Tregoe alumnus,
Ron Evans, opened McHugh Consulting on Pennington Road this spring.
"There is so much information and how it is utilized is really
defining the economy," he says.
"The distribution network is as important as how the information
is processed, and probably as important as what information goes
it," says Spitzer. "E-commerce is really a distribution
and what we are going through today is the third or fourth
revolution of the century."
Distribution networks have come full circle, says Spitzer, noting
that at the start of the century retailing was very minimal, and
dealt directly with the producer of the goods. Storefronts, such as
mom and pop groceries, opened in the 1920s. After World War II came
mass merchandising — self-service large stores containing
— and these were the golden years for Sears Roebuck and Montgomery
Ward. In the ’70s came the mass distribution category killer stores.
"All of these were putting a distribution network, however
between the consumer and the producer," says Spitzer. "The
great irony is that E-commerce is taking us back to where we were,
where we are dealing with the person who produces something, one on
"You will see a split in E-commerce," he predicts. "If
a firm’s E-commerce role is basically fulfillment, that will be less
successful than business to business (B to B) or business to consumer
(B to C)." He points to the retail book business as one that is
particularly encumbered by its distribution network. Amazon.com seems
to circumvent the overstock problems now but in the long run, he
even Amazon.com will have a struggle. "If I am an educated
I will go directly to Simon & Schuster to buy my book at a
"If you are a strategist, ask what you want your company to look
like in five years, depending on what you think the environment and
the economy will be like." No industry does not require this look
into the future. "Your product might not change that much, but
the market might change, and the capacity to be successful might
The question becomes, where will the change occur? "In technology
industries — telecommunications, computers, chemicals, and
— changes are occurring quickly on all three fronts," he says.
To cope with such rapid change consultants need to follow a Socratic
model. "Those industries do not lack information on markets and
marketplaces; they are the experts. Our job is to make sure they are
asking the right questions and if the conclusions they draw don’t
follow logically, to push back. Important are:
Spitzer’s father was a country doctor who paid his way through medical
school and internship — and also supported five children —
by working in the steel mills of Pittsburgh, but at the end of his
career he was the medical director at Squibb. Spitzer went to the
University of Virginia, Class of 1971, and has a master’s in
administration from Georgia. He and his wife have two grown sons and
three younger children.
By working in Atlanta for Jimmy Carter, then Georgia’s governor, he
first learned about how large organizations run. "It is not so
much that I have seen everything, but I saw more than I would have
expected to see when I was very young," Spitzer says. "I
how an environment, a big city in the Sun Belt, could change rapidly.
I learned how change can appear on two different currents, sometimes
very visibly, other times very slowly, much more opaque."
After doing consulting from 1978 to 1982 for Kepner-Tregoe, he took
a career detour of one year to be chief deputy director of Arizona’s
prison system. "An old friend said it was about time to run a
real organization rather than be a consultant. Then Ben Tregoe asked
me to come back." From 1984 to 1987 he had various jobs: running
Kepner-Tregoe’s western U.S. operations and doing staff work, and
then he ran the North American business until 1990, when he became
the second CEO in the company’s history, reporting directly to the
new owners, USF&G.
"It was pretty
acrimonious, a fairly difficult period of time. They wanted me gone,
though I felt there were some things that needed to be done,"
he says. "Their position was right — I should have just left.
But we will refer a lot of the training opportunities back to
and I have many good friends there still."
"Ron and I started toying with the idea of having our own company
over pints of Guinness in an Irish pub, McHugh’s," says Spitzer.
His first move was to hire his former K-T assistant, Linda Cuilla.
He and Evans focus on strategy and organizational improvement and
had hoped to keep their firm small, to hire people that they genuinely
liked to have as friends, to avoid doing training, and to hire someone
else to head the administration for the company.
"But for a couple of reasons we will have to be bigger than we
originally anticipated," he says. McHugh has six consultants now
and by the end of summer there will be 10 — with 5 to 10 more
by the end of the year. He is hiring someone to do the administration,
leaving himself free to consult. "There is no room for
Growth is inevitable, he thinks, because he likes to consult for large
Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 companies such as Corning Inc., which have
interesting, complex problems with an international scope. "We
get bored pretty easily," says Spitzer. "That’s the fun of
the whole thing," says Spitzer.
Consultants need foresight, a good intellect, an insatiable curiosity,
and a lot of drive, he says. "And they had better have a healthy
dose of people skills because at the end of the day it is about sales.
Everything is selling something."
Foresight runs the family, says Spitzer, when you count that his
who ran a hardware store, had that quality. He became a wealthy man
because he obtained the first franchise for refrigeration in the city
of Pittsburgh. "I was fascinated that he had enough foresight
and then the acumen to secure the franchise. It probably seemed as
much of a gamble then as the IT stuff does to us today."
— Barbara Fox
08534. Ron Evans, chairman. Quinn Spitzer, president. 609-818-0003.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.