August 1, 1903|
|Died||January 22, 2003
Delray Beach, Florida
|Occupation||Consultant, management expert|
Marvin Bower (August 1, 1903 – January 22, 2003) was an American business theorist and management consultant.
Bower was the son of the deputy recorder at Cuyahoga County, and grew up in the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio and attended Glenville High School. He earned his bachelor's degree from Brown University in 1925. His father advised him to study law, and Bower graduated from Harvard Law School in 1928. Bower then attended Harvard Business School, graduating in 1930. Following completion of his studies, Bower worked as an associate at Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue in Cleveland.
In 1933, Bower was hired by James O. McKinsey in the new Chicago firm of James O. McKinsey & Company to manage a newly acquired branch in New York. Following McKinsey's death in 1937, the two offices split up and Bower resurrected the New York firm, with the assistance of New York partners, as McKinsey & Company in 1939. He served as managing director from 1950 to 1967, and remained a leadership figure at McKinsey as director and partner until 1992.
According to the Harvard Business School, Bower "is considered the father of modern management consulting." His principled insistence on impeccable professional standards in substance, ethics, and style; his dedication to the professional development of his colleagues; and his candor, all served as a role model for several generations of management consultants, both within and outside McKinsey.
Bower performed one act in the history of The Firm that permanently set him and McKinsey apart from its competitors. In an era when other consultants were taking themselves public or selling out to larger companies, he sold his own shares back to the firm at book value when he turned 60, which he could easily have done at some huge multiple of earnings. In 1963, Bower sold his shares back to The Firm for book value, setting an example for his partners to follow. It was a defining moment in The Firm’s culture. Selling them at real value would have forced the firm into debt and bankruptcy perhaps! Bower’s decision came as a surprise to many, including his own family. “Let me just say there was a shock on people’s faces when he told us that he was selling his shares back to McKinsey at book value” said his son Dick Bower. “It felt unbelievable, to tell you the truth. But that was Marvin for you” In doing what he did, he demonstrated precisely the kind of allegiance to the cause he expected of anyone wishing to be successful at McKinsey. He sent the message that working for McKinsey was like joining a special order of men willing to put the higher cause of the firm ahead of self-interest.
He published several books and articles, among them:
- The Will to Manage: Corporate Success Through Programmed Management (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1966), ISBN 0-07-006735-X
- The Will to Lead: Running a Business With a Network of Leaders (Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Mass., 1997), ISBN 0-87584-758-7
- Perspective on McKinsey - internal McKinsey publication
- "Marvin Bower". Harvard Business School. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
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