Make no mistake, it really does matter what other people think about you - being popular may not be the most important thing in the world but it's certainly up there in the top five. Of course, this is as true in business as anywhere else and, naturally, the opinions that matter most of all are those of your peers. To this end, in our December issue, Management Today will be publishing Britain's Most Admired Companies, our annual survey of corporate reputation.
The survey, now in its seventh year, is produced for Management Today by a team drawn from Nottingham Business School and Loughborough University Business School. It takes as its premise that those best placed to judge a company's relative strengths and weaknesses is the senior management of its immediate peers - those who know the industry inside out and who will score a business on how well it's really doing, not how well oiled its public relations machinery is. The survey covers 260 companies - Britain's 10 largest quoted companies in 26 industrial sectors by market capitalisation on 1 April this year. Seven respondents were chosen from each company - the chairman, managing director and the principal directors responsible for finance, marketing, operations, personnel and R&D. And to provide a further level of expertise, sector analysts at 10 leading investment companies were also polled.
Participants were asked to rate each company in their sector (their own excepted) on a scale of one to 10 for their performance in one of nine key characteristics, ranging from quality of management, to value as a long-term investment, to community and environmental responsibility.
On the basis of these scores, each company received an average score and was ranked against its sector stablemates. Individual scores are then used to provide a full ranking of 260 companies, a ranking of companies in each of the 26 sectors and a ranking of 260 companies for each characteristic.
Finally, having judged their peers, respondents were also asked a further, broader question - namely, which businesses did they most admire, regardless of size, ownership or sector on the basis of the same criteria? This 'free vote' provides the basis of a second tier of results which offer an interesting comparison with the main table.
Last year, in the overall rankings, Tesco took the crown from Cadbury Schweppes and poor, beleaguered Eurotunnel slipped down one position to pick up the wooden spoon. This year, whether any business can usurp 1996's alpha - or, indeed, underperform its omega - remains to be seen: only a select few know the answer. The rest of us will just have to wait until next month, when the main findings of the survey are published in Management Today.
For those who require greater detail, a report providing an in-depth breakdown of 'the figures behind the figures' will be available from Valerie Robertson on 0171 413 4023, price £39, from early December onwards.