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Common Traits of Most Admired Companies

A recent issue of Fortune focused on the “World’s Most Admired Companies” based upon a survey of 4,100 executives, directors and analysts. While I’m always curious about who those businesses are, I’m more interested in what they have in common. What I read was no surprise. Contrary to cliché, good guys often finish first. Below are some feel-good quotes from the Fortune article by Anna Bernasek, author of The Economics of Integrity:

The Hay Group reports, “In 2009, 51% of corporate leaders surveyed said they admired Apple, an unprecedented majority. …Consumers and businesses alike trust Apple’s inventions not only to churn out products that connect with customers but also to introduce a new way of doing things—to literally show us what’s next.” Says Norbert Reithofer, CEO of BMW (no. 22), “Apple’s customers are more than customers—they’re fans.”

What it takes to earn that sort of trust comes from CEO Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (no. 9), “You can’t do it in a day or week or month. You do it one grain of sand at a time. And you can destroy it fast, but you build it slowly.”

Airlines continue to face daunting challenges. Yet CEO Chew Choon Seng of Singapore Airlines (no. 27) says the company hasn’t compromised on what matters, “Even as we scaled back supply to match the impact of the global financial crisis on demand, we made it a point not to touch spending on safety and security, nor on staff training and skills development.”

While signs are good that we are finally pulling out of The Great Recession, all companies should heed the counsel of Muhtar Kent of Coca-Cola (no.10), “People need to know you’re out there, that you understand their financial and emotional stress, and that you have a solution for them.”

Integrity, trust, staff and value to customers “are not just vague terms. They are durable assets with a financial payoff.” Whether you’re a hard-charging business exec or a social worker masquerading as an entrepreneur like me, we can benefit from what these masters of industry are telling us.

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