Most admired man

As the compiler of MT's annual survey of Britain's Most Admired Companies since 1991, Mike Brown shares unique insights into the condition of UK plc. Dave Waller reports.

As we meet outside the Playhouse in his home town, Nottingham, Mike Brown is self-effacing about being in the spotlight. 'Usually, the focus round here would be on someone like John Gielgud. This is my 15 minutes of semi-fame.'

The father of MT's annual Britain's Most Admired Companies (BMAC) survey is more comfortable behind the scenes, preferring to leave the limelight to big names like Leahy and Stitzer. Meanwhile, he toils away in his office at the Nottingham Business School collecting and analysing peer assessments from Britain's top companies, in anything from chemicals to construction. The aim: to discover which firms have earned the highest respect of their rivals, and to measure those elements of business success that, since they don't appear on a balance sheet, are often overlooked. 'Accountants don't recognise intangibles such as reputation,' says Brown. 'For them, it comes under "goodwill". Someone in marketing would lump it in with "brand value". In HR, "intellectual capital".'

Reputation, though, is what the BMAC poll, which next appears in December, is about. And far from being a mere academic exercise, the survey has real practical uses. Brown frequently fields calls from firms wanting to know how they've performed, to provide a benchmark for the future. 'It's this advance knowledge that adds value to what you're doing,' he says.

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