Common Characteristics of Five Top-Performance Companies

By Jan Ferri-Reed

What do Wal-Mart, General Electric, Bank of America, Nestle, and Hershey’s have in common? Besides the fact that all five are among the top one hundred profit-making companies in the world, these companies also have similar values that contribute to their success. While each company has its own unique bundle of values, three ideals stand out across the board: leadership, integrity, and teamwork.

Leadership is a continually evolving science, which is partly why it is so valued by corporations. It is also the most important asset that companies possess. The success or failure of an organization often rests on the quality of leadership within that organization. One example of outstanding leadership is General Electric. GE believes that “change is the essence of what it means to lead.” It is known for having one of the best leadership development models in the country. Part of that model involves moving GE managers and executives from job to job every two to three years, each change being a well-thought out process that provides GE managers with much-needed experience and exposure to different elements of the business. The end result is that GE is able to build a management core that is very knowledgeable and experienced in the operations of the giant corporation. The Navy uses this model in developing talent also.

Bank of America represents another example of exceptional leadership. Named to DiversityInc’s listing of Top 50 Companies for Diversity for the third year in a row, Bank of America is recognized for national leadership in every aspect of managing diversity, from sales and marketing to recruiting and retaining the best talent.

Integrity is also an important corporate ideal. Integrity represents honesty, honor, and reliability. It is the firm foundation of a corporation. It is important to all stakeholders: employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders, the community, etc. Nestlé’s core values, unchanged from the beginning of their company, continue to be fairness, honesty, and a general concern for people. Nestlé’s leadership believes that a company’s success “is a reflection of the professionalism, conduct and the responsible attitude of its management and employees. Therefore recruitment of the right people and ongoing training and development are crucial.”

Bank of America is committed to “doing the right thing.” One of Bank of America’s values is that every employee has “the freedom, authority, and responsibility to do the right thing” for each of their stakeholders, and for each other. The organization has a code of ethics that is consistently updated and improved. Leaders believe in hiring according to their culture, and creating incentives and rewards for associates who “do the right thing.” Furthermore, when it is called for, they don’t hesitate to fire individuals who breach their culture of integrity, “regardless of potential or performance.”

Teamwork stands for cooperation, collaboration, joint effort, and solidarity. It involves listening 80% of the time and speaking 20% of the time. It requires an appreciation for different people with different ideas, patience, individuality, self-confidence, encouragement, and leadership. Teamwork is an important value of Wal-Mart. Former Senior Vice Chairman of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Don Soderquist, comments, “’Our people make the difference’ is not a meaningless slogan – it’s a reality at Wal-Mart. We are a group of dedicated, hardworking, ordinary people who have teamed together to accomplish extraordinary things.” Wal-Mart employees come from different backgrounds and races, and have different beliefs, but everyone is treated with dignity and respect. In 2000, Fortune magazine’s Global Most Admired Companies list ranked Wal-Mart No. 5 based on characteristics such as leadership, and values that emphasize the importance of people and teamwork. In 2003 and 2004, Wal-Mart moved up to the top spot on the list.

Hershey’s is another company that portrays outstanding teamwork. Certified by Guinness World Records on June 25th, 2002, Hershey Foods Corporation launched a team and achieved the record of making the World’s Largest Lollipop. The lollipop weighed in at a massive 4,016 pounds and measured 62.8 inches in diameter and 18.9 inches thick! The colossal candy was created by Jolly Rancher, a division of Hershey Foods Corporation, to celebrate the launch of one of their new products, Jolly Rancher Fruit Chew Lollipops. Jolly Rancher Marketing Manager, Randy Hansen, commented, “We are very proud of the teamwork and dedication of our employees that enabled Jolly Rancher to break this historic candy record.”

All five of these top-performing companies have achieved great success, profitability, and growth through three common values: leadership, integrity, and teamwork. KEYGroup® recognizes these companies as ones characterized by a Vibrant Entrepreneurial Culture. These cultures encourage employees to be the best that they can be by modeling leadership behavior and taking risks that permit personal and organizational growth.

Jan-Ferri-ReedDr. Jan Ferri-Reed, is President of KEYGroup and provides businesses with insightful information to create engaged, productive and profitable multi-generational organizations. She is the co-author of the best-selling book, “Keeping the Millennials: Why Companies Are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation and What to Do About It.” To hire Jan, visit: or call 724-942-7900.

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