A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 12, 2010
“A consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time, and then keeps the watch”

"A consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time, and then keeps the watch” is a popular saying among people who aren’t fond of consultants. Advertising executive Carl Ally (1924-1999) was credited with the saying by 1965. Robert Townsend further popularized the saying in his book Up the Organization (1970).


Wikipedia: Carl Ally
Carl Joseph Ally (31 March 1924 – 15 February 1999) was an American advertising executive who founded Ally & Gargano.

He was inducted in the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame.

7 October 1965, Bedford (IA) Times-Press, pg. 4, col. 1:
Carl Ally’s definition of a consultant: A man who borrows your watch and tells you what time it is.

Google Books
Voices of Crisis:
Vital speeches on contemporary issues

Edited by Floyd W. Matson
New York, NY: Odyssey Press
1967
Pg. 289:
It reminds me of Carl Ally’s definition of a consultant: A man who borrows your watch and tells you what time it is.

Google News Archive
28 November 1968, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, pg. 2B, col. 4:
TODAY’S SMALL JOKE: A consultant is a man you pay to borrow your watch and tell you what time it is.

Google Books
The Mentally Ill and the Right to Treatment
By Grant H. Morris
Springfield, IL: Thomas
1970
Pg. 37:
IT HAS been said that a consultant is a person who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is. 

Google Books
Up the Organization
By Robert Townsend
New York, NY: Knopf
1970
Pg. 86:
They waste time, cost money, demoralize and distract your best people, and don’t solve problems. They are people who borrow your watch to tell you what time it is and then walk off with it. Don’t use them under any circumstances.

Google Books
Library Management : quantifying goals:
Papers presented at the fourth Annual Library Science Institute, April 27-29, 1972, Allendale Lodge, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana

By Choong Han Kim; Robert David Little; William H Kurth
Terre Haute, IN: Dept. of Library Science, Indiana State University
1973
Pg. 43:
A management consultant is often described as a person who borrows your watch, and then proceeds to tell you the time.

Google Books
The Fish Is Red:
The story of the secret war against Castro

By Warren Hinckle and William W. Turner
New York, NY: Harper & Row
1981
Pg. 272:
... relations (the late Howard Gussage once defined a consultant as a person who borrows your watch and then charges you to tell you what time it is).

Google Books
Inside Venture Capital:
Past, present, and future

By Robert C. Perez
New York, NY: Praeger
1986
Pg. 151:
As the merchandising and marketing specialist, Carl Ally, notes, “A consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time; then charges for it.”

Google Books
Notes on Politics from Down the Road a Piece
By Jim Kincaid
Norfolk, VA: Elam Press
1987
Pg. 14:
I heard somebody describe a consultant as a guy who tells you what time it is — and uses your watch.

Google Books
And I Quote:
The definitive collection of quotes, sayings, and jokes for the contemporary speechmaker

By Ashton Applewhite; Tripp Evans; Andrew Frothingham
New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press
1992
Pg. 240:
Consultants are people who borrow your watch and tell you what time it is, then walk off with the watch.
-- Robert Townsend

Google Books
20 November 1992, InfoWorld, pg. 55, col. 2:
There’s a consultant on every corner ready to borrow your watch to tell you the time — and then tell you how dumb you and your IS policies are.

Google Books
1 September 1993, CIO, “A Consultative Approach” by L. Paul Quellette, pg. 28:
After all, as the joke goes, a consultant is someone who, when you ask what time it is, takes your watch, tells you the time, keeps your watch and sends you a bill.

New York (NY) Times
Carl Ally, Hard-Hitting Adman, Is Dead at 74
By ROBERT McG. THOMAS Jr.
Published: February 17, 1999
Carl Ally, a hard-hitting, high-flying advertising man who helped show Madison Avenue the error of its genteel ways through a series of blunt ads that turned upstarts like Federal Express and MCI into industry giants and him into an industry legend, died on Monday. He was 74 and the founder of Carl Ally Inc. and its successor agency, Ally & Gargano.

Google Books
Engineering Your Future:
The non-technical side of professional practice in engineering and other technical fields

By S. G. Walesh
Reston, VA: American Society of Civil Engineers
2000
Pg. 391:
A consultant is someone hired to come a long distance to tell you the time of day. The consultant borrows your watch, tells you the time, keeps your watch, and sends you a bill. (Anonymous)

OCLC WorldCat record
House of lies : how management consultants steal your watch and then tell you the time
Author: Martin Kihn
Publisher: New York : Warner Business Books, 2006.
Edition/Format: Book : English : 1st trade ed

Google Books
Marketing Made Easy
By Kevin Epstein
Madison, WI: Entrepreneur Press
2006
Pg. 147:
There’s an old joke that says “A consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is, then charges you for doing so. A bad consultant tells you the wrong time, and keeps your watch.”

Google Books
The Book of Bob:
Choice words, memorable men

By Tom Crisp
Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel
2007
Pg. 35:
Consultants are people who borrow your watch and tell you what time it is, and then walk off with the watch. 
-- Robert Townsend, 1920—
business authority

Google Books
The Big Book of Duh!:
A Bathroom Book

By Bob Fenster
Kansas, MO: Andrews McMeel
2007
Pg. 160:
Or we could take a tip from Macy’s CEO Ed Finkelstein: “A consultant is someone who takes your watch away to tell you what time it is.”

Knowledge Genes
December 15, 2009
“Consultants borrow your watch to tell you the time ... ”
“Consultants borrow your watch to tell you the time then they walk off with your watch”

So said Robert Townsend, a former CEO of Avis, in his no-nonsense observation on management sillyness - Up the Organization. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Friday, February 12, 2010 • Permalink