After a big shakeup a year ago, Orange County’s management consulting companies continued to contract amid the slow return of corporate spending by their clients.
Most of the area’s management consulting companies stayed flat this year, while a few cut jobs, according to this week’s Business Journal list.
The list ranks management consultants that are headquartered here and others with local operations. They do work that runs the gamut of business activities—including accounting, acquisitions, compliance, auditing, human resources, technology outsourcing and restructuring.
The number of local workers at management consultants fell nearly 6% in the past 12 months to 917 workers, down from 975 workers.
Three companies on the list reported that they cut jobs, three companies added jobs and five were flat. Nine companies were Business Journal estimates.
“We continue to be bombarded with conflicting economic data,” said Brian Goodman, senior practice leader for the legal and regulatory practice of No. 1 Resources Connection Inc. in Costa Mesa. “It causes people to pause and rethink their strategies.”
Irvine-based Resources Connection ascended to the top spot on last year’s list, following the disappearance of the former No. 1 company.
A year ago, the county’s then-largest local operation, McLean, Va.-based BearingPoint Inc., which had operations in Costa Mesa, declared bankruptcy and was sold off in chunks to Deloitte LLP and PricewaterhouseCoopers International.
Resources held on to the top position again this year despite sloughing off 7% of its local workers for a total of 205 people split between offices in Irvine and Costa Mesa.
Resources Connection, which does business as Resources Global Professionals, provides the services of accountants, lawyers and others on a contract basis.
The company currently is hiring and said the dozen or so employees it lost were due to “normal attrition,” according to Goodman.
“We are definitely seeing an uptick in business,” he said. “Although people are cautious, they are moving forward. We are seeing more opportunities now than in the last 12 months.”
The company still is helping its clients with “some restructuring work,” Goodman said.
It also is helping companies with compliance, audits, financial planning and organizational development, he said.
No. 2 Hitachi Consulting Corp., a Dallas-based unit of Japan’s Hitachi Ltd., reduced its local staff by 16% amid a reorganization.
The company has 120 workers in Irvine, down from 143 a year earlier.
Hitachi reorganized into four business units, dubbed technology solutions, management consulting, managed services and its new green practice, which aims to help companies cut costs and operate in a more environmentally sustainable way, according to Michelle Meisels, senior vice president of the Southern California region.
Meisels is the top local official after Liem Vu, who was managing vice president, stepped down this month.
Meisels heads up Hitachi’s Southern California region and reports to the company’s technology industry practice in Texas. “Nothing really changes in terms of the work that we do and the clients we serve down here,” Meisels said. “We are now organized differently and it allows us to have more scale as we grow.”
Hitachi focuses on helping companies use technology to streamline their business practices, trim expenses and run more efficiently.
The company does a lot of consulting work for aerospace and defense companies in OC. Its clients also include manufacturers, makers of food and drink products and consumer goods. The company is looking to hire and has resumed its practice of scouting for newly-minted business graduates. “We have been hiring pretty aggressively,” Meisels said. “With the economy turning around, the recruiting engine is turned back on.”
The biggest mover on the list is New York’s Towers, Perrin, Forster & Crosby Inc., which moved up to No. 5 from No. 10 after it merged with Arlington, Va.-based Watson Wyatt Worldwide Inc. in June of last year. The merger, valued at roughly $4 billion, formed a publicly traded company, dubbed Towers Watson & Co.
The deal closed in January after clearing regulatory hurdles. Watson Wyatt had a small local office which was folded into Towers’ operations in Irvine. The move added some 15 workers for a total of 55 Towers employees and an increase of 38% from last year. “Our numbers stayed about the same but increased overall as a direct result of the merger,” Towers spokeswoman Gail Verderico said.
No. 7 Chicago’s Acquity Group LLC, which has operations in Irvine, cut five jobs locally. “We allowed natural attrition to happen in OC but replaced headcount in different markets,” said Senior Vice President Andy Peebler, who’s based here.
In 2009, the company added offices in Los Angeles with 20 workers. It added another this year in Boise, Idaho.
Acquity was attracted to those markets because of the potential workforce.
“Our regional headquarters will stay in OC,” Peebler said. “But the OC market has been a bit more challenging from a talent perspective.” Acquity helps companies run better websites and boost their online stores. It has customers in manufacturing, consumer products, retail and other areas. “We are finding that the market overall for us is rebounding significantly because so much of our work is design and development for e-commerce sites,” Peebler said.
New to the list is No. 20 Newport Beach-based CEO Advisor Inc., which has 4 workers here and is the smallest shop on the list.
The company offers up consulting services from a network of advisers and coaches throughout the country to chief executives, presidents and bus- iness owners of small and midsized companies.