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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. seems

to circumvent the overstock problems now but in the long run, he


even 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:

Getting the right factors.

Using the information the right way.

Asking the right questions.

Making the right decisions

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

McHugh Consulting, 2490 Pennington Road, Pennington

08534. Ron Evans, chairman. Quinn Spitzer, president. 609-818-0003.

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