US management consultant and founder of the global company McKinsey & Co. He was a university professor and a member of an accountancy practice when he founded McKinsey in 1926 to give financial and management advice to corporations.
McKinsey & Co. differed from the ‘management engineering’ firms of that era in its focus on ‘top management perspectives’, and it required consultants to address specific company problems such as production or pricing, in the context of the political, social, and economic climate. His original plans for management consulting and the value of strategic environmental analysis are recognized by modern consultants today.
McKinsey was born in Gamma, Missouri. He qualified from the State Teacher's College in 1912 and was awarded an LLB at the University of Arkansas in 1913. After receiving a doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1916, he became a member of faculty the following year. He went on to become professor of business policies (1926–35), having earlier served with the US Ordnance department during World War I. He also lectured in accounting at the University of Columbia (1920–21), and then spent five years as a member of a public accounting firm.
In 1926 McKinsey decided to start his own consultancy. He emphasized that it was not the ownership of a business that created profits, but rather the management, which was also a challenge. He addressed not only specific company problems, such as the functionality of a corporate structure, but also its strategy, such as pricing, in the wider context of its industry. McKinsey resigned in 1934, although the consultancy kept its founder's name, to become chair of Marshall Field & Co., a year after US management consultant Marvin Bower, who was to manage it for the next 30 years, joined the firm.
His publications include Budgetary Control (1922), Managerial Accounting (1924), and Business Administration (1925).