A lot of executives ask me what it takes to become one of IndustryWeek's 100 Best-Managed Companies. Most aren't satisfied with my two-word answer: hard work. Surely there must be some common strategy, they say, some secret recipe that allows one company to excel while its competitors lag behind. Unfortunately, there isn't. Our 100 Best followed 100 different paths to excellence over differing competitive landscapes. Yet while I can't give you an easy-to-follow road map to success, I can offer some tips on how to avoid all the hard work that becoming (and remaining) a Best-Managed Company entails. Here's how to make sure your company never appears on our list of the elite 100:
Treat your employees like the lackeys you know they are. Sure, they're your most valuable assets, but if you train and empower them they'll just start asking all kinds of impertinent questions about your strategy, your management style, and eventually about your performance itself. Even more dangerous is any kind of plan to pay them fairly based on their performance. Before you know it, they'll start coming up with new ideas for improved products and service without even asking you. Then where would you be?
Preserve the status quo at all costs. Let's face it: Adopting new technology and converting your brick-and-mortar company into an e-business is a lot of learning and work. And for what? With your pension secure and your 401(k) soaring, you plan to retire in 10 years anyway. Just ignore the digitizing of your industry and let your successors clean up the mess. How much e-strategy will you need on the golf course anyway?
Thumb your nose at the communities in which you do business. Say what you will about the importance of developing a workforce or building strong ties with potential customers, what corporate citizenship really means is extra work for you now -- with most of the benefits in the future. Given that you're already planning to retire early, what do you care if your company is so anonymous or reviled that it can't stay profitable when you're gone? After all, it's not like your pension and 401(k) are tied to your company's future. Are they? ********** On a more serious note, the magnitude of the task that selecting our 100 Best-Managed Companies represents is reflected in the size of the team managed by Project Leader and Associate Editor Glenn Hasek. Along with our 95 expert panelists, and the IW editors who served as judges, we are indebted to the following:
For financial data, Waltham, Mass.-based Primark Corp. and its staff.
For data interpretation, information consultant Erik Fine.
For tireless research, IW interns Beth Barovian, Lisa Hofmann, Carrie Mack, Judi Patrizi, and Marie Spencer.
John R. Brandt is publisher and editor-in-chief of IndustryWeek.