Purpose – Sir George Simpson, the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) from 1821 to his death in 1860, was the subject of numerous biographical works that described various facets of the man including his managerial abilities, literary prowess, physical stamina, abundant energy, extensive art collection and ethnological specimens. Two related aspects of his outstanding management style have been overlooked: the genesis of his management style and where it can be placed in the evolution of management practices during the 19th century.
Design/methodology/approach – Primary data from the Hudson's Bay Company archives plus secondary sources.
Findings – Simpson's management abilities came from his grammar school education and his apprenticeship to a counting house. More importantly, it can be attributed to his association with his mentor Andrew Wedderburn, his dedication to the HBC, and his high level of physical and intellectual energy. His information intensive management style was also a significant precursor to systematic management, which occurred later in the 19th century.
Research limitations/implications – Future research should examine other examples of the evolution of management during the 19th century, particularly the transition from sub-unit accountability to systematic management.
Originality/value – The paper emphasizes the importance of managers in making management systems work.