This success is due solely to Robert Blackwell's
keen intuitiveness for what customers really want.
The secret to the ten-year-old consulting company's successful weathering of the dot-com boom and bust may well be the level-headedness of its founder, chairman and CEO Robert Blackwell, 63, recently named as a finalist in Ernst & Young's 2001 Illinois/Northwest Indiana Entrepreneur of the Year competition.
"We steered clear of the dot.com phenomenon and were careful not to build up a lot of infrastructure that could not be supported by our existing business," Blackwell
"We've always been about being profitable day to day.
Instead of riding the waves of new consulting trends, he
is proud that his
company has remained anchored to its original focus.
"Our idea of the business we're in today is the same basic view we had ten years ago, of focusing on real technical problems people have," he
"We're not in some ivory tower somewhere contemplating what life should be about, but are actually down on the ground doing the project work.
The 200 Blackwell consultants, based at the Chicago headquarters or at a handful of national offices, offer a range of IT services, from web portal development to networking, messaging systems and workflow application work.
said if asked 36 years ago, he
would never have been able to predict that he
would end up where he
In fact, the Wichita State University psychology major had absolutely no computer experience when he
was hired in 1966, straight out of college, to be a systems engineer at IBM
"It was a job.
In those days, it wasn't necessary to have prior computer experience because nobody knew anything about computers," he
hired me and that ended up being a blessing for me.
I remember training right here in Chicago.
That first job turned into a 26-year stint at IBM, where Blackwell worked in management, marketing and sales, ultimately ending up as director of the Greater Chicago Consulting Services for IBM.
last position at IBM
really is what gave him the idea to start his
"I was running IBM's
consulting services and I really liked it.
I thought having a consulting firm was something that didn't require a lot of capital and the barriers to entry were low.
Also, I always wanted to try it on my own and I decided services were a good way to do it.
Today, Blackwell Consulting Services
is the largest minority-owned management consulting and information technology consultancy in the Midwest.
But that's not enough for Blackwell
"Ten years ago, we had a vision that we realized, but we still need to keep pushing and get bigger and stronger," he
"We would like to be a very strong national company.
I can envision that in ten years, we could have more than 1000 people working for us.
And included in Blackwell's
predictions for his
firm is an enhancement of his
emphasis on company diversity.
In 1992, that ambition caused him to walk away from his
cushy corporate job to found Blackwell Consulting Services
In just over a dozen years, Blackwell
has built his
company into an IT consultancy powerhouse with nearly 500 employees.
A generous leader, Blackwell has credited much of his firm's success to those employees.
"'We get the work done' is our common attitude," he
told the TeQnology Web site.