A very brief history of Bain
I found this neat little history of consulting and in particular of Bain’s business model in an article in the New Yorker.
Bain’s business model was heterodox, even heretical. The standard practice at places like B.C.G. and McKinsey is to parachute a team of consultants into the client firm. The team gathers and analyzes data, tons of it, and, after about six weeks, it presents its conclusions and recommendations to senior management. The team is then airlifted back to the mother ship and the relationship effectively ceases.
It was Bain’s unusual idea to flip this model on its head. He created a consulting company that would work for only one firm in an industry, or “competitive set”—the group of companies against which a firm measures its own performance. Bain & Company would have a long-term relationship with that firm, and it would work on a retainer, rather than for a fee. The advice it sold would be confidential and exclusive to the client—proprietary knowledge.
If you don’t have access to the New Yorker, you can find the text of the article here.