For all the talk of global business, the truth is that many Americans understand little about what goes on beyond our borders. But if last year taught us anything, it's that the world is full of surprises, some of which will affect our businesses no matter how far away they seem. Whatever else can be said about the terrorist attacks, they brought home, horribly, that point. Today, such factors as the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, government clampdowns on tax shelters, renewed debate over the merits of GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) versus IAS (international accounting standards), and the tightening of credit markets influence corporate performance as surely as product development and inventory control. In fact, many decisions CFOs make — how to raise capital, where to outsource, whether to expand — are deeply influenced by a network of politicians, financiers, and other individuals around the world.
Who are the key members of this network? The search for corporate influencers inevitably starts with certain occupations: bankers, investors, regulators, lawyers, accounting rule-makers, and politicians. Within these ranks certain individuals stand out, either for their actions this year or for their enduring impact on world markets over the past decade or so. Less obvious but no less significant are the gadfly organizations, opinion leaders, and media players that control the distribution of information worldwide. A few CEOs exert influence well beyond their own companies. At times, an organization holds influence beyond its individual leaders; the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries, holds power by virtue of its control of a primary resource.
Events like the collapse of Enron and the demise of Andersen can have widespread impact over fundamental business relationships.
Of course, the identification of precisely 100 major influencers is completely arbitrary and subjective. Nonetheless, the exercise can offer a framework for understanding who the major players are, and who may be the originator of next year's surprises. See for yourself by selecting from the links at right.
Additional reporting for the Global 100 was provided by Ronald Fink, Kris Frieswick, Roy Harris, Leigh Held, Julia Homer, Joseph McCafferty, Michael O'Loughlin, Andrew Osterland, Tim Reason, and Edward Teach.