The New Bottom Line

Fortune Telling

What is a Fortunate 500 company? Over the past few years, my colleagues and I have devoted significant time to defining exactly that. So far, we've identified the following 10 characteristics:

1. Vision. Fortunate 500 companies have a clear vision that stems from the business owners as to what they are about and what they want to be. That vision is communicated to all employees and used daily as a basis for decision-making.

2. Empowerment. Employees are treated as partners in the business--not just cogs in the machine. Business owners and managers expect a lot from every employee, and in return, they help employees do their jobs with minimal barriers. You can expect your employees to constantly learn and grow--as long as you back up your expectations with solid training and career development options to facilitate that growth.

3. Performance. Employee performance is measured and monitored in a way that encourages your employees to give their best. Set performance goals and routinely provide feedback to let your workers know how they're doing.

4. Team approach. Employees are organized into teams to find the best means to solve problems, build morale and achieve company goals.

5. Customer service. Customers are treated as the most important part of the business--which they are.

6. Quality. The business prides itself on producing high-quality goods and services and never letting standards slip. Your company's long-term success depends largely on its long-term reputation, so make it a priority to build exceptional products.

7. Communication. This is the oil that keeps the company running smoothly. Make sure the doors are open for employees to communicate in any direction within the company.

8. Ethics. The company expects all employees to be ethical.

9. Wellness. The business is concerned about the wellness of its employees. Healthy employees are more energetic--and less absenteeism means higher productivity.

10. Profit. The company is profitable--but it does not treat this as its sole purpose for existing.

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The New Bottom Line.

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