Consulting firm started by SHA alumnus acquired by Deloitte

June 16, 2016

By Sherrie Negrea

Rob Rush ’77 discovered the world of customer-experience measurement by accident. In the 1990s, more than a decade after he had launched his own consulting firm outside Philadelphia, Rush began to realize that the hotel companies he was working with were increasingly focused on one goal: delivering a consistent, differentiated, and memorable customer experience.

His company, LRA Worldwide, Inc. (“LRA”) then began to develop a strategy that enabled hotel companies to articulate their brand by measuring their customers’ experience and determining how to enhance it. Over the next 20 years, LRA refined the tools of customer-experience measurement, becoming the leader in the field in the hospitality industry, working with seven of the top ten global lodging companies.

SHA alumni of LRA by Deloitte

Hotelies of LRA by Deloitte, left to right: Josh Kudisch ’05, Brett Rubin ’08, Rick Reilly ’02, Rob Rush ’77 (founder and managing director), and Stephanie Perrone Goldstein ’01

Last year, the firm’s dominance in the field attracted the attention of Deloitte & Touche LLP, a professional services provider based in New York. Deloitte acquired LRA to expand its consulting capabilities in customer-experience measurement and now delivers these services under the brand name LRA by Deloitte.

“LRA by Deloitte is a great addition to our strategic-risk practice and brings us strong talent and a high-volume delivery platform that we did not previously have in-house,” says Keri Calagna, principal at Deloitte and leader of Deloitte Advisory’s brand and customer-experience services. “The fit—from a culture, vision and capability perspective—was very attractive to us.”

While Deloitte provides a variety of professional services in the brand and customer-experience space, the company did not offer clients the high-volume, detailed field examinations LRA specialized in, which involved sending consultants to its clients’ locations to measure customer experience. LRA’s field measurement toolkit includes onsite inspections, quality-assurance assessments, measurement of compliance to industry standards, and mystery shopping.

“LRA by Deloitte is a great addition to our strategic-risk practice and brings us strong talent and a high-volume delivery platform that we did not previously have in-house,” says Keri Calagna, principal at Deloitte “We essentially helped define the space and rode a wave as more and more industries were hiring folks with hospitality backgrounds and trying to learn from the hospitality industry how to design, implement, and sustain more enriching customer experiences,” Rush says.

Before its acquisition by Deloitte, LRA had focused primarily on hotel companies but had also branched out into other areas of the hospitality industry, including cruise lines, airlines, food service, restaurants, sports, and entertainment. Leveraging Deloitte’s industry experience and relationships, LRA by Deloitte now works with clients in industries such as automotive, retail, shopping centers, healthcare, and government.

Rush made the decision to seek a larger corporate partner that could support and accelerate the company’s growth globally in 2014, after his longtime partner in the company, Stan Lashner, decided he wanted to retire. Following discussions with a number of prospective buyers, Rush decided to partner with Deloitte.

“We went through a process and ultimately concluded that Deloitte was a really good platform and fit for us culturally,” Rush says. “Deloitte has very strong client relationships and experience in travel, hospitality, leisure, and services.”

For Deloitte, LRA’s brand protection and customer-experience services complement the risk-advisory services offered through Deloitte’s Advisory practice, which helps clients address all dimensions of risk: strategic, reputational, financial, operational, technological, legal, and regulatory, Calagna says.

Among LRA’s staff are ten Cornell alumni working in various leadership positions.“This acquisition brings to us a talented team of 325 professionals residing in five continents and an ability to deliver over 30,000 field examinations a year in over 125 countries,” Calagna says.

Rush, who is now managing director of LRA by Deloitte, says the acquisition did not result in any staff reductions at the company, which is still headquartered in Horsham, PA and has offices in Salzburg and Singapore.

Among LRA’s staff are ten Cornell alumni working in various leadership positions. One SHA graduate, Rick Reilly ’02, joined LRA in 2008 and became senior vice president of strategy and research. Reilly is now a practice leader of strategy and research for LRA by Deloitte.

“The great thing about Deloitte is they’ve really maintained our business model,” Reilly says. “There hasn’t been a lot of restructuring, so we’re still operating in much the same way we did before, with a lot more horsepower and resources behind us.”

“While LRA brings to Deloitte a solid customer-measurement platform, Deloitte brings to LRA a wide array of consulting services that can be offered to our clients,” Reilly says. “With our relationship with Deloitte, I think we can have a greater understanding of what our clients are thinking and how we can serve them better,” Reilly says. “We’re now able to work with our clients in a much broader capacity.”

LRA refined the tools of customer-experience measurement, becoming the leader in the field in the hospitality industry, working with seven of the top ten global lodging companies.

2 Comments

  1. Janet Gerhard June 16, 2016 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Congratulations to the entire team at LRA! I credit my early stint with Rob Rush, Stan Lashner, John Roberto and too many others to name as giving rise to a career focused on creating a differentiated customer experience.

  2. Manabendra Paul May 9, 2017 at 9:41 am - Reply

    I have seen this company’s checklist from 2001 when we were first audited by them in India, where we failed the audit and latter seen the checklist grow so technical and full proof by 2008. Hats off it’s the ultimate quantitate way to check Quality of a hotels, not forgetting many hoteliers are afraid to be audited by LRA personnel and have in the past made provisions not to be audited by them, least they may loose their Brand if they fail the audit three times.

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