This phrase is the operating mantra of Bain & Company. We question how true it is. What many people do not realize is that while Mitt Romney was CEO of Bain Capital, he was also CEO of Bain & Company when they went through a wrenching turnaround in the early 1990′s. I think we can all agree that whatever our political affiliations and our resulting disagreements, Mitt Romney did an amazing job at Bain as CEO and was a great consultant. Arguably one of the best consultants of his generation.
But why does Bain not be explicit about Romney’s role as CEO? This appears on their website. In fact the firm voluntarily released this statement to clarify Romney’s role, but it actually is more misleading:
“In 1985, as a vice president, Mr. Romney left our firm to help found Bain Capital.
Mr. Romney rejoined Bain & Company in the early 1990s to help the firm develop and execute a turnaround plan. He led a financial restructuring that included renegotiation of debt held by major creditors and put Bain & Company on the path to lasting growth and success.”
The press release omits his official title of “CEO”, yet chooses to include his earlier title of vice-president.
This appears on Romney’s website and is common knowledge:
“As Bain Capital was growing in prominence, Mitt returned to his old consulting firm, Bain & Company, as CEO. In a time of financial turmoil at the company, he led a successful turnaround.”
Despite Romney’s incredible effort, documented extensively using archived material in one chapter of “Partnership”, all Bain mentions about him is that he “helped” and “led a financial restructuring”. That is very vague and possibly deliberately so. It is actually the opposite of what consultants demand in resumes and communication. They insist on the removal of all ambiguous and subjective terms, like these words.
This description of Romney’s efforts is a little like going to your high-school reunion, seeing your friends with even hotter partners, feeling embarrassed and referring to your partner as a “friend”.
It is acceptable for Bain as an organization to not agree with Romney’s view. Yet, how can this be a reflection of consulting values to voluntarily release a deliberately vague clarifying statement to distance itself from a former CEO who saved the firm? Bain is a great firm, but this release and its intent does not reflect this proud legacy.
Without meaning to lecture anyone and not fully knowing the intent of the release, it should be remembered that management consulting should be reason without emotions. It should be beyond politics. We should not airbrush history to ride out a fad. Consultants don’t follow fads. We should stand by the decisions we make and our heritage, even when it may be uncomfortable to do so that times. We should be willing to lose revenue to defend our value system. At least then we will know what our values are truly worth.