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The Economy and Its Effect on Firms in the Consulting Industry


Name: Pat O’Brien
Year of Graduation: 2008
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Major: Economics, Business

Name: Dr. Marc von der Ruhr, Associate Professor of Economics
Research Specialty: Applied International Trade



The goal of the project was to study how the state of the economy affects firms in the consulting industry (marketing firms in particular) relative to firms in other industries. Initially, the goal was to develop a regression model that had some measure of industry performance as the dependent variable and indicators of the health of the U.S. economy as explanatory variables. However, due to lack of publicly available data on certain measures, the focus of the project shifted to analyzing the performance of the Professional Scientific and Technical Services Industry (the industry that encompasses marketing firms) over time and with regard to various measures of industry health (e.g. industry unemployment, industry GDP, average wage rates, etc.). We then compared the performance of the Professional Scientific and Technical Services Industry, based on these measures, to other industries representing various sectors of the economy. We found that contrary to what conventional wisdom may suggest, the Professional Scientific and Technical Services Industry actually exhibits fairly robust performance both during recessions and over time. This is especially true when compared with the other industries analyzed.

I, along with another student, took part in this research project as an internship during the second semester of my senior year at St. Norbert. I gained several skills from the project that I have constantly used throughout my experience in graduate school and my internship experience that followed this project. First and foremost, I drastically increased my abilities in structuring data sets in Excel, calculating data points using multiple formulas, providing graphs that properly depict information, and many other areas. Second, I greatly increased my confidence in using the knowledge I accumulated throughout my time at St. Norbert and applying it to a given situation. Third, I learned about the vast amounts of government economic data available on the internet, and how to access and utilize it.

 This project greatly enhanced my skill set that I have developed and used throughout my graduate school and internship experiences and will continue to use throughout my future career path. This is especially true for the ability to look at an economic problem, think though possible solutions, and select the optimal approach to solving it. Further, this experience allowed me to get full time internships at MISIX, Inc. during the summers of 2008 and 2009. I also got a job offer to work full time at MISIX, Inc. upon graduation.

The insights derived from this project will be very helpful to anyone associated with the consulting industry (particularly marketing firms), especially given this time of economic duress. We argue that consulting firms actually perform with relative stability during recessions. Many successful firms actually boost spending on marketing and consulting services during recessions which gives them a strategic advantage during the inevitable recovery (e.g. Hyundai during the current recession). The initial goal of the project was to develop something that could be used as a tool to educate potential investors of MISIX, Inc. as to how the industry performs during recessions. To my knowledge, the scope of the project’s use has expanded to serve as a potential white paper to demonstrate MISIX’s knowledge of the industry and educate other players in the industry.

Professor Marc von der Ruhr
Pat conducted a very interesting research project to investigate how a recession impacts service industries, in particular market research firms. This opportunity allowed us to carefully consider how changes in the macroeconomy may affect different sectors of the economy and through which channels this would occur. One particularly interesting aspect of the work was to find solutions to data availability problems in a manner that would still yield reliable results. Pat conducted very rigorous research with a report that will be employed to attract the interest of investors in the industry.
Pat O'Brien
Pat O'Brien

“This project greatly enhanced my skill set that I have developed and used throughout my graduate school and internship experiences and will continue to use throughout my future career path. This is especially true for the ability to look at an economic problem, think though possible solutions, and select the optimal approach to solving it.”



St. Norbert Collaborative

Phone: (920) 403-3147
Fax: (920) 403-4086
E-mail: collaborative@snc.edu


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