Comparison of 2010 benchmark survey respondents and US Fortune 200 industry distribution

A recent study presents data on the distribution of companies by industry in the Fortune 200. It is the Litigation Cost Survey of Major Companies, presented at the Searle Center on Law, Regulation, and Economic Growth, (Northwestern School of Law, May 10-11, 2010) at 7.

For this post, I organized those Fortune industries into 15 in decreasing order of their representation in that select group. Matched against my counterparts in the General Counsel Metrics survey, each “industry” has a parenthetical that tells the number of worldwide companies in it from the GCM survey and their percentage of the GCM total. Sometimes I combined industries from either the Fortune 200 list or my list. Admittedly the fits are approximate.

  1. Industrial Goods & Services 12.5% (Aero/Defense 12 plus Manufacturing 132 17.7%)
  2. Banks 5.5% and Insurance 7.0% (Financial Services 96 12%)
  3. Food & Beverage 10.5% (Food/Bev 37 plus Restaurants 18 6.9%)
  4. Retail 8.5% (Retail 39 5%)
  5. Oil & Gas 15.5%, Basic Resources 1.5%, and Chemicals 1.5% (Energy 55 plus Extractive 27 10%)
  6. Health Care 6.5% (Healthcare 39 plus Pharma 27 8.1%)
  7. Technology 6.5% (Technology 83 10.5%)
  8. Automobiles & Parts 5.0% (Transportation 31 3.8%)
  9. Telecommunications 5.0% (Telecomm 38 4.7%)
  10. Media 3.5% and Travel & Leisure 2.0% (Leisure/Media 30 3.7%)
  11. Other 2.5%
  12. Professional Services 2.0% (Business Services 40 5%)
  13. Personal & Household Goods 2.0% (Consumer Products 24 3%)
  14. Construction & Materials 2.0% (Construction 24 3%)
  15. Conglomerate 0.5%

The GCM global benchmark survey has two industries that don’t fit well in the taxonomy used by the Searle Center report: Transport/Air 14 1.7% and Utilities 25 3%.

The comparison is crude because this pits huge US companies against all 800+ companies in the global survey. Still, several of the matches are quite close, notably financial services, health-related, telecommunications and consumer products. Larger gaps appear with energy, technology, and entertainment. I doubt that the differentials say anything about the relative interest in benchmark metrics by industry.

Much more likely, this comparison shows once again how challenging it is to describe huge companies by a single industry name, how hard it is for benchmarkers to decide on the number and composition of industries, and how contingent is participation in benchmark surveys. The term “industry” remains necessary but notional.

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