Roland Berger hits major milestone: 50 years in business

22 September 2017 Consultancy.uk

This week marks exactly 50 years of business for the firm created by German entrepreneur Roland Berger, who at the age of just 29, founded the consulting firm of the same name. Today, the management consulting firm belongs to the elite in the industry, and has successfully positioned itself among the likes of the large American consultancies McKinsey, BCG, Bain and Strategy&.

In 1967, at just 29 years old, company name-sake Roland Berger established "Roland Berger International Marketing Consultants" along with his assistant. The two-person outfit was based in Munich initially, and quickly rose to prominence, following a small-scale marketing assignment which lead to an opportunity to help merge four tourism companies into giant tour operator TUI – with Roland Berger encouraging the move toward critical size to outperform a strong competitor, Neckermann, who was the first to offer package tours. The foundation of TUI became the firm's breakthrough case in Germany, and following a number of further high-profile assignments, sales doubled annually leading to Roland Berger becoming Germany’s third largest consultancy by its sixth birthday.

Over the course of its first two decades, Roland Berger gradually shifted from its initial marketing focus into a strategy consultancy, a development which stood at the basis of the firm's rebranding to Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. The next decades saw the consulting firm expand its reach to include offices in every corner of the globe. Following from its first adventures beyond domestic territory, in 1969 to Milan, and São Paulo in 1976, Roland Berger has since built a presence in locations as far flung as Tokyo (in 1991), Shanghai (in 1998), Beirut (in 2007), Boston (in 2012) and Mumbai in 2013.

Roland Berger - 50 years of navigating complexity

The continued period of change at the company – the management consulting industry has over time seen major change in client expectations and service portfolios – triggered a second large rebranding effort in 2015 to modernise the company’s image. In line with an expressed corporate aim of becoming the "most valuable consultancy firm worldwide", which meant that segments beyond strategy would be served, 'Strategy Consultants' was dropped from the brand and a revamped corporate logo was introduced. The new "titanium B" combined with the "Roland Berger" lettering is said to represent a juncture in the company’s history and the B is designed as a standalone, liquid object, to signify agility and flexibility.

At the forefront of the industry

Roland Berger has also become known as one of Europe’s most prestigious home grown consulting firms. In the latest Vault Top 50 consulting ranking for Europe, Roland Berger is the highest ranked consultancy after the well known US based firms such as McKinsey, BCG and Bain. Other well-known European origin strategy consulting firms include OC&C and L.E.K. Consulting. However, similarly to other firms such as OC&C and Booz & Company, Roland Berger attracted interest from suitors looking to co-opt the strategy firm by way of acquisition. Comparable to for instance Bain & Company, Arthur D. Little and A.T. Kearney, Roland Berger faced several close calls, beginning with a 2010 bid which almost saw the company picked up by Deloitte Consulting. The deal reportedly broke down due to a last minute intervention from founder Roland Berger, the honorary chairman of the supervisory board to this day, who pumped a further €80 million in investment into the firm to retain independence.

Three years later, in a more difficult market for strategy consultants, merger talks resumed, with more Big Four interested in poaching Roland Berger resulting in a tug of war, which ultimately ended in stalemate. Despite Roland Berger’s expansions into Manama, Bahrain, Doha, Lagos and Seoul at the time not yielding the desired acceleration in results, the partner team of the German firm decided to retain independence once more. Since then, Roland Berger has made sustained efforts to put the deal talks to rest by focusing on a sustainable independence strategy, with ambitious targets formed to triple the group’s size. Roland Berger are the largest domestic consultancy in Germany now, in a consulting market worth upwards of €25.2 billion.

Roland Berger - Timeline of new offices

New generation

Today, with around 2,400 employees worldwide, Roland Berger is an independent partnership wholly owned by its approximately 220 partners, and is presently led by Charles-Edouard Bouée, who was elected as CEO by the firm’s partners in 2014 – taking over from Burkhard Schwenker, who was elected to the supervisory board at the same time. Having joined the firm in 2003, Bouée became the first non-German to head the largest international strategy consultancy of European origin. In 2016, he penned an article commenting on the potential consequences of the UK’s Brexit vote, suggesting that the process may take a toll on the UK economy, as entrepreneurs might find it easier creating and scaling their businesses inside the EU.

Thinking of his time with the firm, which currently totals 16 years, Bouée said, “I am proud of being part of Roland Berger and have always been happy with my choice, since joining almost 16 years ago. I am also very grateful to all the colleagues who have contributed in the past to making this venture – the only leading consultancy of European origin – a frank success.”

Charles-Edouard Bouee - Roland Berger

According to Bouée, in a piece he shared on LinkedIn, the firm remains bullish having fended off a succession of suitors to remain its own boss. The firm’s resilient business model of independent Excellence, Empathy and Entrepreneurship has, according to its CEO, proven its resistance for 50 years. Now, the company are keen to lay the foundation for the next generation – in order to always serve their clients changing needs and help their businesses and organisations fit for the future.

In a piece he shared on LinkedIn, Bouée stated, “In 2017, Roland Berger is a strong and independent company that is on a clear growth track with a modern organization and services offering. 50 years after the first consulting project was conducted, we are on our way to becoming the most valuable high value-added service firm in the market, by strengthening our knowledge capabilities across all functional areas and regions, expanding our technology capacities and adding selected capital services.” The firm’s strength is largely thanks to its founder according to the piece, which also paid homage to the spirit of Roland Berger, “A big thank you to our founder for creating this incredible firm with its unique spirit, which is still present today and serves as an inspiration for all of us.”

Bouée then concluded by looking ahead, “At Roland Berger, we help our clients to own their own future! And we are all ready to meet the challenge of becoming better every day over the next 50 years.”

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