A look at the top ranks in our annual Britain's Most Admired Company awards can lead to two quick conclusions: size can matter, and maturity can matter even more. This is not to say that a company has to be huge and long established to attract the admiration of its rivals. What it does bring home is that earning admiration from the outside may be more about where a company has been than where it hopes to be going. It's about respect.
The respect of one's competitors can't be won with fashionable offices, flashy web sites or projections of how many internet customers may be in sight a few years down the road. What does win respect is being flexible enough to roll with the punches, tough enough to turn a corner when a rapidly changing market makes your core business almost obsolete, and smart enough to lead, or at least join, the parade when a revolution changes all the rules. The big, established names among our winners are not stuck in time. Indeed, the criteria by which their rivals judge them include innovation, staff development and other measures of quality management.
But by having succeeded through times thick and thin, by spending on research, and building teams to keep moving forward, these companies have achieved the size and created the launch platforms that help make today's rapid innovations and profits possible. The boardrooms of Britain have anticipated that GlaxoSmithKline, the giant pharmaceuticals group awaiting regulatory approval, will become an awesome force. But their views are based not so much on promise as the past global performance of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham.
The results of our survey reflect, in a way, the recent stock market woes in the dot.com sector. We have only two players in the table, lastminute.com and QXL, and they only just made it under the wire. The dot.com setbacks have not been an indictment of innovative ideas so much as a failure of the confidence of investors. That confidence is a measure of respect - the kind that is normally built over time - for a sustained record of applying good business principles, such as spending controls, market research, solid financing and profits. In time, some of the young start-ups will take their place in the top ranks of the Most Admired, but they will first have to earn the respect that comes from paying their dues.
The Most Admired awards have been running for 11 years and are among the most coveted in Britain's business world. We like to think that this, too, is a mark of respect for a magazine that has spent more than 30 years building a reputation for credibility. We are proud of our awards, and we're proud of the British companies that keep pressing ahead, reinventing themselves for the future. And taking care of business all the while.