We're doing something a little different today. We're going to look at the five biggest companies in the world by market capitalization, and examine what they're doing differently to everyone else.
|kaarsten / Shutterstock.com|
Apple is the biggest name in town. It owes a lot of this success to the vision of Steve Jobs, and the products that made it a household name: the Macbook, iPod and iPhone. It continues to innovate with each passing year, diversifying its range of products but sticking to simple and cool devices that have branding to die for - and a price to match! By keeping a tight lid on the software side of the equation as well as the hardware through market-changing innovations like the App Store, Apple has secured its position as a tech sector leader.
Exxon Mobil is a bit different to the others on the list. It doesn't have a visionary behind its success (maybe John D. Rockefeller, but his contribution is long over!) and it isn't in the tech industry. But it's definitely an innovator. Most of its success has been built on oil, the lifeblood of just about every industry on the planet. However, companies like Exxon are a dying breed. Unless it's able to move away from oil, its long-term future will be limited.
If Apple owes a lot to Steve Jobs, Berkshire Hathaway owes even more to Warren Buffett. The so-called Sage of Omaha has a talent for investing that no-one else seems able to match. He's very straightforward, never investing in anything that he can't personally understand. And he writes every annual shareholder report as if he's explaining what's happened to his sisters, Doris and Bertie. These simple rules have led to a highly diversified range of investments that can weather any storm. The oldest company on the list, Berkshire Hathaway is here to stay - at least as long as its CEO and his simple rules stay in place.
Google is another company that found that simplicity was the best way to work. Its search engine remains at its heart and has barely changed in the nearly 20 years it's been active. Or, at least, the webpage you visit to use it hasn't changed much - the complicated PageRank algorithms are updated regularly so Google is sure it's always providing useful results. After all, that's how they managed to get such a big share of the market in the first place. And it's hard to talk about Google without mentioning Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two of the smartest guys in the industry.
Microsoft is the big rival to both Apple and Google in different areas. It's big innovation was making sure that it cornered the market in terms of software, and pushed hardware vendors to ship computers running its flagship Windows products. Again, you can point to Bill Gates as the innovator who made the personal computer truly personal. Microsoft has moved more into hardware with the XBox and the acquisition of Nokia, with mixed results. But the newly released Windows 10 suggests there's plenty of life left in the company yet.
So what do these companies have in common? There isn't one single thing that unites them all, but here are a few ideas: being built on a solid foundation; having charismatic, intelligent leaders who understand business; sticking to a simple approach that doesn't stray too far from their core business; but, at the same time, holding on to a desire to innovate and keep innovating.