When NPCA was founded more than 50 years ago, the average lifespan for a Fortune 500 company was 75 years. Today, it is less than 15 years and shrinking all the time. Walmart remains solidly atop the list with an incredible $485 billion in revenue. if we look at the total precast concrete industry in North America as a Fortune 500 company, we would fall somewhere between Marriott International and General Mills at about 165th on the list.
There is no individual precast company large enough to be represented on the Fortune 500. But if we think and act in a way that promotes the higher purpose of precast as the preeminent building material of the future, then we have the power of a Fortune 500 company and can consider ourselves a major player in the construction industry. That’s an optimistic way to look at the precast concrete industry in the business world today.
The other side of that coin is that Fortune 500 companies come and go at a rapid rate. Nine of every 10 Fortune 500 companies that graced the list in 1965 are either gone or out of the rankings. They have been eclipsed by companies like Apple and Amazon, Verizon and Comcast, Home Depot and Best Buy – companies that were disrupters, change agents, adapters and adopters. Remember when Microsoft ruled the world and Apple was near failure? Apple morphed into a completely new company and now sits solidly in third on the 500 list.
I’ve talked with hundreds of entrepreneurial precasters over the last 25 years. These are individuals who are willing to think big, risk everything, and try new products and techniques. When they’re thinking and talking about their own companies, these are brilliant, dynamic leaders. But over the years, I’ve found that when they get into leadership on committees and boards for NPCA, they don’t always apply that same type of thinking to the industry as a whole and act more cautiously. And so we are slow to change. Too slow, in fact.
Today’s Fortune 500 CEOs know that if they are slow to adapt and unwilling to change, they’ll be gone in a few years. As an industry, we are currently at a tipping point. We’re poised to either soar into the future or slide down the path to irrelevancy, replaced by some revolutionary new material or disruptive construction technique that changes everything.
NPCA must provide resources and strategic intelligence so the member-leaders can make decisions about the future that will keep the industry at the Fortune 500 level of relevance. But NPCA can only go as far as our individual companies are willing to take us. We need to think like Fortune 500 CEOs and embrace change. I’ll be focusing in on specific ideas in my next few blogs. Until then, please feel free to contact me and share your thoughts.
President, National Precast Concrete Association