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The Lessons of Adversity
Article from Bulletin/Magazine
Fortune vol. 159 no. 9 (May 2009)
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After 2008, it's understandable that the average American would be mad as hell at America's business leaders. Executives, even in a good year, tend to rank toward the bottom in credibility with the public, down around congressmen and journalists. The current economic crisis provides all the ammo for a populist backlash, as you - and your portfolio - know too well. The Fortune 500 portion of your 401(k) collapsed 37% last year (measured in total market value), while the earnings of the 500 were even more of a disaster, dropping 85%. But given its monumental size, the 500 can hardly be summed up in one story. These companies employ 25.6 million people and account for $10.7 trillion of economic might, created both here and abroad. While it may be comforting to react to a messy year like 2008 with righteous anger, a more useful approach would be to look within the list for the clear truths we can find. So that's what we've done. Let's think of 2008 as one hell of a school year. What have we learned?
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