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.