As the world emerged from World War II, a visionary leader in the U.S. Air Force named Gen. Barton Kyle Yount dreamed of creating a business school that would focus exclusively on international management.
That dream was realized April 8, 1946, when Thunderbird School of Global Management received its charter, with Yount as the school’s first president. The campus opened on the site of Thunderbird Field, a historic airbase established to train American, Canadian, British and Chinese pilots during the war.
Today, Thunderbird is home to a strategy consulting unit called the Thunderbird Learning Consulting Network, which advises clients on their global business challenges.
Traditional strategy consultancies offer advisory services built on industry knowledge and client-led solutions. This has some upsides because it allows participants to replicate successful business models adopted by other clients. But the traditional model also has some drawbacks because it can force participants to fit a “round” strategy into a “square” organization.
More and more business schools also offer their own version of consulting services to corporations. The academic model normally involves teams of enthusiastic students who generate innovative ideas. The Thunderbird Learning Consulting Network takes the traditional academic model of solely student-led projects a step further.
By melding the talents of a pool of strategy consultants, world-class faculty, MBA students, alumni specialists and the world’s top advisers, the Thunderbird network provides globally integrated advisory services to clients in virtually any market.
The Thunderbird Learning Consulting Network works with organizations looking to grow their business nationally and internationally that need the support of experienced professionals who have done this many times before.
If an organization is challenged with getting its products onto the shelves of a supermarket in India, if it is looking for the right partner across North America, or if it is looking to know what its competitors are up to, the Thunderbird network attempts to shed light on how best to move in the right direction.
The network also helps customers execute their strategy and provides them with the right tools to take on their strategic challenges. These tools range from providing intelligence on the industry playing field — such as competitors, potential partners, market size and pricing — to a defined go-to-market strategy or simulation tools aimed at mapping potential market-development scenarios.
The Thunderbird Learning Consulting Network has been working closely on a wide range of projects with businesses in Arizona such as Fender and P.F. Chang’s to small upstarts. P.F. Chang’s, for example, came to Thunderbird wanting to benchmark its corporate social responsibility strategy with the best in class.
Along with focusing on the protection of a company’s intellectual property rights, the Thunderbird network also teaches clients how to carry on the work once the engagement is over, focusing on knowledge transfer and not just project execution.
In addition, the combination of practical consulting skills and the theoretical thinking and academic research brought by faculty ensures that the network tailors its solutions to the clients’ specific business challenges.
This can be done because the Thunderbird Learning Consulting Network can pull resources from almost anywhere on the planet. Thunderbird has 38,000 alumni scattered around the globe and across most industries.
So if a client needs to know more about solar energy suppliers in Indonesia or Native American business ventures in Colorado, there will almost always be an expert on hand from Thunderbird’s network who can give first-hand insight.
Examples of this broad expertise were plentiful at the 2009 Thunderbird Global Reunion in Macau in November. Alumni from all over the world came together to celebrate their successes and share global business knowledge.
Events such as these lead to new opportunities for the Thunderbird Learning Consulting Network, both in terms of new sales and new methodologies for future projects. So even on an airport runway in Macau, there is a piece of Arizona working to improve the way business is done.