NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Nov 12, 2013) - It's not what you have. It's what you're able to do. That sums up what really drives the success of some of the world's best performing companies. This is according to a new study by Booz & Company (link to full survey report here).

Booz & Company asked more than 700 senior-level executives to select up to three of the 15 largest public companies in their sector and comment on their success, or lack of it, and what drives them. Frequently cited success drivers fit under two main umbrellas: (a) those that define what companies have, i.e. assets (facilities, brands, etc.), a diversified position, or scale; and (b) those that define who they are, i.e. capabilities, a distinctive value proposition, and coherence. 

Importantly, the companies whose success was seen to be linked to who they are (i.e. their identity) had a measurably higher three-year total shareholder return (TSR) record than those perceived as competing on what they have. These identity- (and capabilities-) driven companies had average annual TSR of 14.5%, versus 11.4% for companies relying more on assets, scale, and diversified positions for success.

It's notable that respondents put Microsoft squarely in the asset- and scale-driven success category and Apple squarely in the identity-driven category. Other companies seen as owing their success to distinctive value propositions, capabilities and coherence included Caterpillar, Honda, PetroChina, SAP, Standard Chartered, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

"The study reinforces that differentiation based on a powerful system of capabilities leads to sustainable advantage. In fact, the identity of some of the most successful companies is directly linked to the value they can create for their customers with these differentiated capabilities. It's a very powerful position and one that is very difficult for others to replicate," said Cesare Mainardi, Chief Executive Officer at Booz & Company.

Paul Leinwand, partner at Booz & Company, added, "We encourage companies to define themselves by what they're able to do, their capabilities, rather than what they sell. This is because differentiated capabilities are so fundamental to a company's identity and growth potential, whereas products have much more limited and short-lived potential. Companies that want to thrive over time need to compete on capabilities, not assets."

About Booz & Company's "What Drives a Company's Success?" Survey

Booz & Company developed the "What Drives a Company's Success" survey to better understand what is behind the success of the world's largest companies. It assessed the relationship between companies' approach to value creation and their performance. 720 executives responded to a web-based questionnaire between spring and late-summer 2013 and used their expert view to comment on the success drivers of the leading companies in their industry.

About Booz & Company

Booz & Company ( is a leading global management consulting firm focused on serving and shaping the senior agenda of the world's leading institutions. Drawing on the talents and insights of more than 3,000 people in 57 offices around the world, we help our clients achieve essential advantage by working with them to identify and build the differentiating capabilities they need to outperform.

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Media Contacts:

Frank Lentini
Sommerfield Communications

Siobhan Ford
Booz & Company