Looking ahead through a Rear-view Mirror

courtesy of wikepedia media

Sometimes looking back helps us to look forward with a clearer vision. Fortune Magazine® just published their annual listing of the 500 highest revenue-producing public companies in the United States of America. Here’s their listing of the 10 highest revenue producing companies for the year 2016:

For the year 2016 Fortune 500’s top ranked companies are:

  1. Walmart $482,130 Retail
  2. Exxon Mobil $246,204 Oil
  3. Apple $233,715 Computers
  4. Berkshire Hathaway $210,821 Holding Company
  5. McKesson $181,241 Chemicals
  6. UnitedHealth Group $157,107 Healthcare
  7. CVS Health $153,290 Healthcare
  8. General Motors $152,356 Automobiles
  9. Ford Motor $149,558 Automobiles
  10. AT&T $146,801 Communications


The above 10 companies  consist of :

  • 2 automobile companies:   General Motors, Ford Motor
  • 2 healthcare companies: CVS Health, United Health Group
  • 1 oil company: Exxon Mobil
  • 1 retail company:  Wal-Mart
  • 1 computer company:  Apple
  • 1 chemical company:  McKesson
  • 1 communications company:  AT&T
  • 1 conglomerate “holding” company:  Berkshire Hathaway

In the year 1955, the top ranking Fortune 500 companies were:

  • 2 automobile manufacturers: General Motors, Chrysler
  • 3 oil companies:  Exxon, Mobil, Gulf Oil
  • 1 steel company:  U.S. Steel
  • 1 chemical company:  DuPont
  • 1 industrial manufacturer:  General Electric
  • 1 food processing conglomerate:  Esmark
  • 1 meat packing company:  Armour

Now, let’s gaze into the rear-view mirror and take a look at America’s manufacturing and industrial past.

This table includes the top ranking companies in the Fortune 500 for every decade from 1955 to 2016.  In the year 1955, there were automobile, oil, and food manufacturers on Fortune’s 10 highest ranking list. In the year 2016, oil companies are almost “non-existent” and healthcare has overtaken manufacturing industries, retail is “big” business, and a “holding” company, Berkshire Hathaway, makes the list.

1955 1965 1975 1985 1995 2005 2016
AIG [1] x
Altria x
Amoco x
Apple Computer x
Armour x
AT&T x x x
Berkshire Hathaway x
Chevron x x
Chrysler x
Chrysler x
Citigroup x
ConocoPhillips x
CVS Health x
DuPont x x
Esmark x
Exxon x x x x x x x
Ford Motor x x x x x x
General Electric x x x x x x
General Motors x x x x x x x
Gulf Oil x x x
IBM[2] x x x x x
ITT[3] x
McKesson x
Mobil [4] x x x x x
Sears[5] x
Texaco x x x
U.S. Steel x x
United Health Group x
Wal-Mart x x x
  1. [1] American International Group
  2. [2] International Business Machines
  3. [3] ITT Industries
  4. [4] ExxonMobil did not exist until a merger of the separate oil companies Exxon and Mobil until 1999 but the Fortune listings show the combined name for all the listings years that I’m using.
  5. [5] Sears, Roebuck & Company


I recently posted an article referencing industries that are “thriving” or “dying” in the U.S. Here’s the link: Signs of the Times #8: Thriving or Dying: Which type of industry do you work in?

The 1965 Fortune 500 illustrates “blue collar” America. The three automobile companies in the top l0, GM, Ford, and Chrysler, were at the “top of the heap,” the importing of VWs (Volkswagon) and Toyotas was just beginning to steal sales from them.

There were four oil companies. These were mostly blue collar jobs, high paying blue collar jobs. This was before the 1970’s price fixing and the 1970’s OPEC oil embargo and escalation of crude oil prices in the world market place.

General Electric was a manufacturing behemoth, it is now (in the years since the Great Recession of 2008) shedding its “financial” aura and returning to its manufacturing roots.

IBM (International Business Machines) was called “big blue”. There was a saying in the Corporate world, “you would never lose your job by purchasing Big Blue” (IBM equipment).

Enter: The Internet

The Internet really changed everything around the year 1993. I have chosen that year because that’s the year that the “graphical” Internet was “born.” The graphic browser Netscape was introduced to the “masses” and we have never looked back. I was fortunate to meet Mark Andresen here in Chicago at a presentation of Netscape to local educators, business people and computer aficionados. Netscape was developed at the University of Illinois.

Thousands of jobs today are a result of the Internet. Thousands of jobs historically performed in business settings by humans sitting in an office, are now “remotely” performed by humans or computers over the Internet. Outsourced or independent contractor-type jobs are now performed more and more over the Internet. As if the “Great Recession” did not screw up the world’s economies enough over the past 10 years or more, now, ironically, the British vote to exit the European Union will probably cause untold ripples throughout the world’s economies.

So, looking ahead using a rear view mirror, in particular I see many challenges for anyone looking for a job. Nimbleness does not even begin to describe what the U.S. worker must possess to find as well as retain a “good” job.

Here’s my “way-out” predictions of the top 10 companies in the Fortune 500’s listing 10 years from now:

  • FaceBook
  • Tesla
  • Apple
  • Amazon
  • GE
  • General Dynamics or Lockheed Martin or other defense manufacturer
  • Disney
  • PayPal
  • Senior housing
  • One or more water companies


What are your predictions for companies on the Fortune 500 top 10 listing? Your guesses are as good as mine!


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