Big vs. Small

How do CEOs in Inc. 500 companies stack up against their counterparts in Fortune 500 companies?

How do the CEOs of Inc. 500 companies stack up against their big-company counterparts? That seems a timely question, given the debate raging over the relative strengths of large and small companies. Hoping to answer it, we had Park Ridge, Ill.ñbased London House Inc. administer aptitude and job-skills tests to 70 top executives, half from Fortune's Industrial and Service 500s and half from Inc.'s list of the 500 fastest-growing privately held companies. The results are intriguing.

Comparing CEOs

Fortune 500 CEOs Inc. 500 CEOs
Setting organizational objectives 92% 90%
Developing technical ideas 21 58
Improving communication 50 15
Creative potential 76 90
Internal emotional wellbeing 31 18

Many of the tests measured management skills. Not surprisingly, the older, more experienced Fortune 500 executives came out ahead in all but 5 of the 16 areas tested. But in one skill crucial to growing companies -- the ability to promote the company to the outside world -- the Inc. 500 CEOs easily surpassed both executive norms and their Fortune 500 counterparts. Inc. 500 executives also came out far ahead of the Fortune group in their ability to develop technical ideas, an area in which the large-corporation executives performed poorly. On the other hand, the Inc. 500 CEOs were weaker in people skills such as improving channels of communication, supervising employees, and encouraging teamwork. Both groups' strongest job skill was long-range organizational planning.

In tests of mental aptitudes and abilities, both samples scored high but showed different intellectual fortes. Fortune 500 executives did exceptionally well in the area of vocabulary (better than 92% of the cases in the norm base), while Inc. 500 CEOs were strongest in creativity (better than 90% of the executive population). Both groups were also well above average in drive, financial responsibility, and family-oriented lifestyle. But the tests revealed that both samples are exposed to above-average stress and anxiety, with the Inc. 500 group showing the more extreme results. Fortunately, the Inc. 500 CEOs also proved much better at working under pressure than both Fortune CEOs and the management population at large. Of course, that's probably a requirement of the job.

-- Martha E. Mangelsdorf

Last updated: May 1, 1989

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