There are many companies that have achieved the milestone of 40 years in business. We are proud and thankful that Nolan is now among them.  On the occasion of our anniversary, we reflect on an interesting journey…

Imagine this: The country has fallen into a serious recession with unemployment spiking from 5% to 8.3%; inflation is on an upward trajectory from 7.4% to 12.2% by year end; and productivity in the United States is slowing faster than other members of the G-7. It’s 1973, and instead of accepting offers for a “real job” from local Hartford insurance companies, Bob Nolan, married and father of five young children decided, “What a great time to start a consulting company!”

So, on April 1, 1973, the Robert E. Nolan Company, Inc. began operations, imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit and a vision to build the very best firm in our chosen specialty: productivity improvement in the financial services segments of insurance and banking. And while the recession of 1973 to 1975 may have put a damper on potential business for the nascent consulting firm, it was also a catalyst in bringing improving productivity and controlling costs to the top of the agenda in many c-suites. 

The creation of the Nolan Company also included the development of Advanced Office Controls (AOC), a proprietary methodology to accurately and economically measure and report on productivity levels throughout an organization. Within a few years it became the methodology of choice for more than 200 insurance companies and banks. 

The field of productivity improvement has evolved substantially since those AOC days, and so has the Nolan Company. Based on our experience with that methodology the firm gained invaluable and unique knowledge about what drives improvement in the operations of insurance companies and banks. That experience is embedded in the Nolan approach, based on the principle that our value to the client is to help them achieve results, and those results come from the quantification of our analysis and recommendations, working with clients collaboratively and assuring there is a transfer of knowledge.

One of the challenges of any consulting firm is to maintain relevance over the years. Methodologies, approaches and service offerings must continually evolve. Looking back over our 40 years the Nolan Company has evolved in a substantial way in terms of its service offerings. And the key word there is “evolve,” not abandoning the previous, but building on it and taking it to the next logical level. For example, our productivity measurement expertise evolved to functional improvement, which evolved to quality improvement, which evolved to reengineering, which evolved to process improvement and a number of service offerings that defy description by buzzwords but are designed to meet the specific needs of each practice specialty. Structurally, we evolved when healthcare insurance and managed care became distinct from insurance giving us three practices serving the Insurance, Healthcare and Banking industries. Technology, once a separate Nolan division, now permeates all that we do and is an integral part of each practice. 

The one area where the Nolan Company has not changed is our culture. Early on we espoused the concepts of the “one-firm firm” meaning having consistency of culture across all practices and offices. Certainly, the needs of the clients in each of the practices demand differences in service offerings, but being true to the Nolan vision and values is consistent across the firm.

One of our favorite statements used whenever we are talking to a potential consulting candidate is, “Running a consulting firm like ours is really easy. All you need to do is hire highly qualified people, 100% of whom deliver results beyond our clients’ expectations, and our clients and their Nolan colleagues enjoy working with them.” When we make that statement, we are describing our values: ethical; client focused; results-oriented; open and honest communication; respectful of individuals; no excuses; team oriented; firm but fair; continuous improvement; true to our culture. Industry experience in our practice areas is “table stakes,” but expertise and working style are vetted through a series of interviews, tests and reference checks.

Among our proudest achievements is that today a third of the staff has been with the company for at least 10 years, and fifty percent of our consultants have over 25 years of Nolan experience. Five of us have 30 years or more of service.

The above notwithstanding, a consulting firm has nothing if does not have integrity. Just declaring one has integrity is not enough. So, we set out to join the most prestigious consulting association, the Association of Management Consulting Firms, (AMCF). Joining the other AMCF member firms from around the globe involved a stringent qualification process. Maintaining membership requires adherence to a comprehensive code of ethics and a commitment to the industry. However just proclaiming membership was never our goal. Members of Nolan management have taken on active leadership roles and have served on the board of AMCF for more than 35 years.

Based on statistics the lifespan of the typical start-up company is only 8 ½ years, so reaching the 40th anniversary milestone is quite an achievement. Further, there have been six significant recessions since our founding, which weeded out many firms - start-ups and established firms alike. Add to that the fact that competition grew exponentially, given that the 1970s marked the beginning of the new technology revolution, featuring more powerful, more flexible systems. Many companies implemented these systems not only for their increased functionality, but also for their promise of productivity and cost improvements and streamlining their processes. The 1980s and 1990s saw heavy merger and acquisition activity that swallowed up some of the consulting industry’s pioneers. Through it all, the Nolan Company not just survived, but thrived.

We know we did not arrive at this milestone on our own. There are so many people to whom we owe a sincere debt of gratitude. First and foremost, we are grateful to the executives and staffs of more than 600 organizations and counting that have selected us to assist them throughout the years. Thanks to the relationships that have been built on trust and confidence, many of these companies have engaged us time after time over the years.

Last but not least, we thank our hard-working staff, both current and past. They are an amazingly cohesive group despite being spread across the country and across industries. There’s an adage that says, “Choose the right people and good things will happen.”  Nolan is living proof.

The first 40 years were terrific, and we are looking forward to our 50th anniversary, and beyond, and continuing to earn your trust and confidence.