Leading and Lagging Companies; Which One Are You?

Why is it that 1 in 12 of the Fortune 500 are LOSING money, despite having enormous revenues, over 50% of firms on the list earn less than $26K of Profit per Employee per year, yet “A” grade companies earn almost 14 times that much? When was the last time your senior management team sat down to take a strategic look at setting profitability targets based on leading your industry, rather than setting targets based on historical results? Download your copy of the Return on People Benchmark Report, and let’s take a closer look at the leading and the lagging companies and what makes the difference.

Almost 1/4 of the Fortune 500 skyrocketed their Return on People by a FULL grade last year. Did you?

If not, you’re falling behind in an increasingly competitive landscape. Here’s why it matters. Unless you have a very healthy bottom line, simply giving everyone a decent raise or bonus wipes out your profit, leaving you with your hands tied, unable to invest in your business bucket list for growth – things like new technology or equipment, upgraded facilities, better people, new acquisitions, and market expansion. Join the leading companies who have figured out how to leverage passionate, engaged employees to create the kinds of ideas, products, services, and compelling value propositions that bring your customers back again and again to provide sustainable cash flow and profit for your firm.

What happened to the other 75%?

Many stayed within their same grade – they’ve yet to focus on the power of using Return on People as a catalyst to help employees behave like owners. Some firms plummeted – reflecting headwinds in some industries, but often reflecting an invest-then-grow pattern that leads to the typical saw-toothed progression of Return on People. Many firms are making significant shifts to re-position for growth, whether investing in technology to create more value-add in an increasingly competitive landscape, or acquiring new companies who bring strategic synergies.
It has been what I call a “snakes and ladders” year for the companies in the Benchmark, with some sliding to the bottom while others caught a ladder to the top. And it makes fascinating reading beyond the sneak peek below.

Are you average? Below average? Above average? Find out.

It’s time to benchmark your business for breakthrough profits. This Key Performance Indicator is the catalyst to ignite your employees’ pride and desire to make it happen, giving you the opportunity to invest for growth, create secure jobs, reward good employees, and fund your business bucket list with ease.

Here’s a sneak peek of how different industries stack up IN GENERAL, however in every industry there are clear leaders and laggards, and the only way to know how you’re doing is to download the complimentary Benchmark Report and spend 30 minutes doing a deeper dive.


Average Return on People Performance by Industry

Healthcare: Medical Facilities



Oil and Gas Equipment, Services

Publishing, Printing



Construction Mach

Diversified Outsor



Food & Drug Store

Food Consumer

Food Production

Food Services

Gen Merchandise

Home Equipment

Hotels, Casinos

Household Prod

Information Tech

Mail, Pkg Delivery

Medical Products


Specialty Retailers

Temporary Help


Waste Mgt

Wholesale Electr

Wholesale Food

Wholesale Health








Computer Per

Computer Soft

Forest & Paper

Healthcare: Ins


Industrial Mach

Insur: Prop (M)

Insur: Prop (S)

Motor Vehicles

Network Cmn

Petroleum Ref



Scientific Eqpt



Wholesale Diver


Computer Eqpt

Diversified Finance


Financial Data Svc

Home builders

Insur: Life (Mut)

Insur: Life (Stock)

Internet Services





Real Estate



The 7 Distinctive Differences of Leading and Lagging Companies:

1. Dramatic Gains: Performance in the Information Technology sector is relatively unchanged over the past 3 years, but in that time, CDW has more than doubled its Return on People WHILE adding to their headcount. They’ve learned how to transform talent into value. What could you learn from their stellar results? Dig deeper and you’ll find that in many cases HR decisions are a differentiator between leaders and laggards. Some firms need to cut staff to improve results; others hire and create value.

2. Clear Leaders: Many of us may consider Home Depot and Lowe’s relatively undifferentiated in terms of their products and services, but they are following VERY different strategies… and one is consistently on top. Which one? Download the Report to find out who and why. One of the best things you can do as a leader is to understand the strategy behind the performance, and then look at your own strategic thinking with fresh eyes.

3. Trends: All of the airlines had stellar years for Return on People thanks to lower fuel costs. Once again, it’s a difference in strategy that a couple of years ago made them look like a star, backfired when it turned out they zigged when they should have zagged, but is now paying off. As you look at the Report, you’ll see evidence of many bold strategies, and some that completely lack inspiration. It’s part of the difference between industry leaders and laggards.

4. Out-of-Syncs: FEDEX and UPS may seem undifferentiated to someone who just needs to get a package somewhere… yet they’re completely out of sync year after year, and one is a clear leader. Both are taking action to catch the wave of e-commerce, yet in different ways.

5. Different Playing Field: This part of the Return on People Report is becoming a wild-west, with several big-name players all of a sudden gearing up for cutthroat battles in markets you may not know they play in! Google competing with Apple? Facebook competing with Dell? Amazon is competing with Google, Apple, Fedex, UPS, and Netflix – find out what’s behind the free-for-all! There’s a lot of outside-the-box thinking that has nothing to do with outdated “stick to the knitting” strategic thinking.

6. Surprises: If you own General Electric stock, it may be time to take a look at it through the Return on People lens, along with several other companies delivering significant surprises. Remember, ROP is all about being able to turn the talent of the only sustainable competitive advantage you’ve got – people – into value that customers are willing to pay for. And sooner or later, that ability drives corporate valuations.

7. Learn from These Deep Dives and Comebacks: Your initial grade when you benchmark may discourage you… or you may be riding high. One of the differences between leaders and laggards is how they manage the rhythm of Return on People, which rarely goes up in a straight line. It is about taking a critical look at the reasons for your own peaks and valleys. If investing makes sense despite causing a dip, do it. And if you’re riding high, make sure its sustainable before you simply stay the course.

If you have a Strategic Planning session coming up this fall and want to take it to a new level based on doing the kind of strategic thinking that can increase your Return on People by a grade or more, I have some unconventional tools and approaches that can help. Simply email me at StrategicThinking@AnneCGraham.com and we’ll explore further.

#1 Bestselling Author, International Speaker, and Accelerator Anne C. Graham is on a mission to help 5 million business leaders and their teams double their profit per employee – or more – in less than one year, in less time per week than they’re spending on email per day. Her new book Profit in Plain Sight includes the 5-step proactive P.R.O.F.I+T Plan to do it. Connect with Anne on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.