Supplement | HBS Case Collection | June 2008

Kit Hinrichs at Pentagram (B)

by Linda A. Hill and Emily Stecker

Abstract

This case focuses on Kit Hindrichs, a 65 year-old partner at Pentagram, a privately-owned multidisciplinary design firm. One of the world's most prestigious design firms, Pentagram was founded by five designers from different disciplines in London in the 1970s. By 2008, Pentagram remained small, with less than 30 partners, each a veritable star in his or her own right. Pentagram had two founding principles, the first of which was equality. The equality principle meant that leadership was evenly distributed; partners with seniority had no greater formal authority than newer partners, and the only formal leadership role was a chairman position, which, after being held with a founder for 30 years, was rotated every two years. Further, Pentagram had no corporate office; each partner was expected to manage their own financial, marketing, and human resource functions. Pentagram's second principle was generosity. All partners were equal shareholders in the firm. Pentagram branched out to New York in the early 1980s, and in the late 1980s, Hinrichs established a San Francisco location. This case describes how Hinrichs grapples with the future of the San Francisco office, once learning he will be its only partner.

Keywords: Business Offices; Design; Managerial Roles; Private Ownership; Business and Shareholder Relations; Partners and Partnerships; Equality and Inequality; London; San Francisco; New York (state, US);

Citation:

Hill, Linda A., and Emily Stecker. "Kit Hinrichs at Pentagram (B)." Harvard Business School Supplement 408-128, June 2008.