« Notre succès en tant que consultants dépendra de la justesse des conseils que nous donnons et de notre capacité à convaincre les dirigeants de les suivre pour la pérennité de leur entreprise. »
— Andrew Thomas Kearney (1892-1962)
With these words, Andrew Thomas (Tom) Kearney laid the foundation for his namesake firm. It’s a charge that we continue to uphold every day in all that we do. In fact, visit any A.T. Kearney office anywhere in the world, and you’ll find this quote with Tom’s portrait. The principles he established and the values he instilled remain at the core of who we are today and help guide us as we in turn guide our clients to future success.
Tom Kearney began his career as an agricultural extension agent at Pennsylvania State University and worked in commercial research for Swift & Company before entering consulting in 1929. He soon became managing partner for the firm’s Chicago operations, and following the 1937 death of his partner, his name was elevated into the company’s title.
By all accounts, Tom had the remarkable ability to make everyone he met feel comfortable immediately. This genuine warmth, kindness, and collegiality carried into everything he did. During the firm’s early decades, as he and his partners developed a national reputation as experts in manufacturing and distribution, they became known for their ability to work closely with everyone—from shop floor workers to senior executives. This remains a hallmark of our working style to this day.
From the beginning, Tom was committed to achieving excellence and providing dedicated service to clients. His goal was to deliver quality results to his clients; that was the cornerstone on which he wanted his firm’s reputation to rest. He achieved the goal through a commitment to clear, focused principles:
« Tout ce dont nous avons besoin c'est de travailler avec sincérité en tant que membres d'une équipe. »
« La vraie force de ce cabinet, comme dans toute entreprise, c'est que nous sommes tous différents. »
« Tout consultant qui se respecte doit donner son opinion sincère, qui ne correspond pas toujours à ce que le client voudrait entendre. »
Consideration for others was also very much Tom Kearney’s philosophy in business and personal life. He felt strongly that he and all associated with him should work to improve the human condition. On several occasions, he took extended leaves from the firm for government and civic service. In January 1945, Tom was asked by the U.S. government to head a mission to China. Leading a team of 28 specialists, he spent more than six months working to improve the nation’s war-ravaged industrial supply chain. He took on this challenge despite opposition from some colleagues who felt his attention was better spent on firm business. The firm, however, did not suffer, and for his efforts, Tom was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the U.S. Army and the Victory Medal from the Chinese government.
Trois ans plus tard, le gouvernement américain fit de nouveau appel à Tom. Celui-ci se rendit en Allemagne pour étudier la reconstruction industrielle d'après-guerre, et plus tard, en France pour travailler sur un projet associé au plan Marshall. Pendant cette mission, il rencontra Jean Monnet, le fondateur de l'Union Européenne. Tom effectua tous ces services pour le gouvernement pour un dollar symbolique par an, à l'exception des 50 $ par jour qu'il reçut pendant sa mission en Chine, et pour lesquels le gouvernement américain avait insisté.
Tom était aussi directeur de la chambre de commerce de l'État de l'Illinois et il faisait partie des conseils d'administration du Massachusetts Institute of Technology et de l'Université de Chicago. Il dirigea aussi le Chicago Community Fund, un ensemble de diverses associations caritatives ayant précédé à l'actuel United Way. Son action fut remarquable pour les associations : en 1953, il aida à recueillir plus de 10 millions de dollars - ce qui équivaudrait aujourd'hui à plus de 78 millions de dollars.
He took on all of these missions out of deep civic duty and moral obligation—from a sense of what was the right thing to do. And we proudly carry on this tradition: We know that by doing good, we will do well for our clients, ourselves, and our communities. And we continue to use his signature on our materials as a symbol of our pledge to live the values he instilled in our firm and uphold his commitment to ensuring “essential rightness” in the advice we give and the actions we take.