Fortune 500 companies in 1955

The Fortune 500 is an annual list published by Fortune Magazine that ranks 500 of the largest United States Corporations by total revenue. Its first year was 1955. The average revenue for a fortune 500 company for 2017 was around $5.4 billion. Included in this list are both publicly traded companies and private companies. Since 1955 the 500 companies listed annually are simply the best of the best in the United States.

Why do I bring this up? Of late, I have been consumed in understanding what makes some companies stand the test of time while others fail. I recently ask some family members, what would they have done differently if they were the CEO of Sears 20 years ago? Interesting question. Knowing what you know today, it’s always easy to look back and see where the companies missed it. To make changes when you are in the middle of it, is another thing entirely. That said, some companies can adjust and adapt to changes where most companies can’t.

Did you know that of the fortune 500 companies listed in 1955, that only 60 are still around today? That means in 1955 that 440 of the 500 best companies in America have either failed, sold, closed or merged. That means that over time, roughly 8 out of every 10 major companies, fail. Isn’t that astounding?

I was with my pastor a few days ago talking about this very subject and why some business and some churches make it and some fail. What we discussed was profound. In most of life whether it is financial, marriage, job, exercise, diet, church, relationship, career etc. there seems to always be one main thing that you need to always do and focus on to last through the test of time. One thing that is more important than all the other things. You are the only person that can determine what that one thing is. In our line of work, our one thing is meeting new clients this week that you didn’t know last week. Among all the things we must do, that is the one thing we can never forget to focus on.

So large companies are not immune to this line of thinking. American Motors, Brown Shoe company, Studebaker, Collins Radio, Detroit Steel, Zenith Electronics etc. all have one thing in common. In 1955 they were among the best of the best and today, they do not exist. I often wonder what their one thing was that they got too busy to do. KT

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