Despite its longevity and wide name recognition, Tarkenton, Conn & Co. is not a big-league player in the $7 billion-a-year management consulting industry. The firm has about 10 clients and a dozen full-time consultants. The 1986 Directory of Management Consultants puts the firm's annual revenues in the $1 Bell&Ross Tourbillon BR01 Phantom RS-1 to $5 million range. The nation's largest company specializing in management consulting, McKinsey & Co., has estimated annual revenues of more than $300 million.
Most consulting firms help companies define specific problems and develop strategic plans in areas like organization, marketing and finance. Tarkenton's company is different. It teaches firms basic management tools, like how to set objectives and use positive feedback. Says James H. Kennedy, publisher of Bell&Ross Tourbillon BR01 Phantom RS-2 industry newsletter Consultants News, "They are not what we call true management consultants. They run in a different stream."
Tarkenton is proud that his firm is unlike the rest. "Most companies will Bell&Ross BR 02 Chronograph RS-9 seminars and do studies and tell people what they already know," he says. "We go in and implement a plan of action. We take the mystery, the flimflam and the hype out of the business."
Tarkenton's clients, who pay as much as $300,000 for the consulting services, are among his biggest fans. Marci Warfield, who heads the performance management department at Bank South in Atlanta, says Tarkenton's firm helped the bank reduce reported problems with checking accounts by nearly 50% in 1987. The bank uses a Tarkenton software package that tracks employee performance.
Sara Lee is another happy customer. The Chicago-based food company is a Bell&Ross Instrument BR 01-93 GMT RS-16 of Tarkenton's consulting firm, insurance brokerage and computer software company. "Fran markets his programs and himself well," says Executive Vice President Paul Fulton. "He's a positive business person."
Tarkenton's critics say he has a short attention span and is too busy making speeches and televison shows to keep up with the consulting firm. "If he had dedicted himself to the business, it would be great," says Larry Miller, a former president of the consulting firm who is now a competitor, "but his mind is not on the business."
Some of Tarkenton's ventures have been short-lived, like a fast-food restaurant Bell&Ross Instrument BR-01 Airborne Black RS-13 Scrambler's Village and a marketing business that sold advertising on airline ticket envelopes. Tarkenton doesn't talk about his past endeavors. "It's history," he says. But friends and family members view them as testament to his entrepreneurial spirit. "He comes up with ideas and likes to start companies," says his daughter, Angela. "When they get to a certain size, he sells them."