The biggest, and the best

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Articles - July/August 2012
Monday, July 09, 2012

 

0712 EditorsLetterOur annual ranking of the state’s largest private companies, the Private 150, turns 30 this year. The companies on the list have changed dramatically over the decades. Where natural resources-based companies once completely dominated, now we see companies such as Knowledge Universe and ODS Health in the top 10. Several food companies are also high on the list.

But even the past five years have been transformative. Though total revenue at the 150 companies on the list is up from last year, it is nowhere near the heights of five years ago. There now are fewer billion-dollar companies, and this year’s Private 150 employ a lot fewer Oregonians:

• In 2007 total revenue was $41 billion versus this year’s $32.7 billion. That’s a drop of 20%.

• In 2007 there were nine companies with revenues of more than $1 billion. This year there are only six.

• In 2007 the Private 150 companies employed about 63,000 Oregonians. This year they employed about 50,000. That's a drop of 21%.

As always, there are large and significant companies that choose not to participate in our survey, which means that our number crunching can only go so far. But the list is still an important harbinger of where Oregon’s private employers stand, and so far they show that they haven’t fully recovered from the recession. There is one promising fact: Revenue growth was 13.4% this year versus 10.8% in 2007.

Oregon Business has another important milestone coming up. Our 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon project turns 20 in March. The magazine has spent two decades researching and celebrating great workplaces in Oregon. Few others have been around as long. I encourage you to take the time to sign up for the survey, which opens Aug. 20. It’s free, and even if you don’t make the list, you receive a complimentary basic report.

Watch for details at oregon100best.com, or email research editor Brandon Sawyer ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) that your company would like to participate. You might not be one of the biggest employers in the state, but you could be one of the best.

Robin Doussard

 

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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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