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Top UK companies of the future – review


Title: Top UK Companies of the Future”
Editor: Guy Clapperton
Copyright: Corporate Research Foundation, 2001
Published by HarperCollins Business, London
Hardback, 594 pages
Price: £24.99
ISBN: 0007110294

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“Top UK Companies of the Future” is the fully revised, updated edition of “Corporate Strategies of the Top UK Companies of the Future”. It profiles 100 extremely varied businesses.

Gary Clapperton, Editor of the revised edition, says in his Foreword, “New companies queue up to tell their stories alongside old. The best companies of the new economy take their place alongside traditional businesses.” We are told, “Managerial practice and solid financing (are) key to success”. He hopes “managers will find much to enlighten and influence them about the strategies that will take (their) organization ahead.”

David Butcher, senior lecturer in management development and director of general management in his Introduction, says, “We know leadership (is) about vision, simple ones are best.” He adds, “Leadership is also about transformation.” He tells readers that, “Amgen and Yahoo! Five years from now probably won’t exist.”

“Leadership is about vision, change and learning.” Missing, he says, is a “healthy irreverence for the 200 year old building blocks of business and organizing.” “In today’s business world, constructive irreverence is a watchword for mature leadership.”

The list of “Top UK Companies of the Future” includes global names: Microsoft, Marks & Spencer, Reuters, Sun Microsystems, and Cisco along with many companies you have never heard of.

The 100 businesses are scored in six areas with five stars being tops. Reuters gets five stars in all six categories. These are Innovation, Flexibility, Growth Markets, Human Resources, Quality Management, and International Orientation. Two additional designations are Biggest Plus: “It’s International. It’s very well managed and it’s a market leader that gets its timing right!” Biggest Minus: “It’s full of clever people so there’s a lot of competition!” Space is given to Reuters’ Foundation and their causes of journalism, education, and humanitarian relief.

Unlike a Fortune, Forbes or Financial Times top 100 list, this book is for managers for education and development as opposed to investors. But where are the criteria for making the list? How do they choose who gets on the list?

For example a company like Zeus has 100 employees. Symbian 750. Sun Microsystems, which is given five stars in six areas has 42,500 people. Smashedatom has 45 people. Merryick & Co., a business mentoring service, ‘helping business leaders build successful businesses and lead fulfilling lives’ is a virtual organization.

There is also the question of editorializing. For example, in the Flexibility category for Marks & Spencer we read that, “early in 2001, their media coverage was not slow to emphasize problems with operations outside the UK. While far from a disaster the company took the sound view that, if stores were persistently losing money, sound common sense dictated those stores should be closed. A sensible ‘nip the bud’ action demonstrates an agility of corporate mind.”

Taking issue with the authors it should be noted there are questions of attitude. Nisha Gopalan of Dow Jones Newswires reports in her Feb 19, 2002 article that LeggMason Investors fund manager Mark Westwood notes “once-embattled retailer Marks & Spencer PLC (U.MAR), after a series of
restructuring measures became 2001’s biggest rising share.”

Cisco is given 5 stars in all 6 categories. We’re told, “We believe that Cisco has the potential to be the most influential and generous company in history”. But from another source, Adam Lashinsky for reports, “Cisco can’t deliver the old magic The numbers were solid, but the forecasts are dull as dirt.”

Baltimore Technologies employs over 1200 globally, and operates in 30 cities. It’s listed on NASDAQ (BALT) and the London stock exchange (BLM). “Although … in and out of the FTSE 100 several times in 2000-2001…analysts have remained positive.” Paddy Holahan, executive vice president notes that “the organizational structure means that there is a mix of regional and global management. Matrix reporting is common; employees may report to more than one manager, a regional and a global, and the company believes that practice helps keep the culture relatively free of internal politics.” Adding, “Because of the aggressive acquisition strategy, senior managers also have to be able to accommodate new senior management.”

Inconsistency and lack of continuity can be detrimental to the growth of any enterprise. To learn and benefit from the experience of others real criteria are needed. This book can be used for discussion groups. Top UK Companies of the Future is rich with interesting information and is a place to begin research. It leaves out significant information and editorializes. This can be a serious issue in the current financial world.

Ann Lurie Berlin
Business Transformation Coach

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