How we assembled the Virginia 500
If you called your local mayor or city manager — or, better yet, the governor — how quickly would your call get returned?
That thought experiment was just one of several questions I had in mind as we were compiling this, our first annual edition of the Virginia 500.
Assembling a list of the state’s most powerful and influential leaders by sector, we took into account a variety of considerations, including — but not limited to — annual revenue, newsworthiness, community involvement, diversity, number of employees (in Virginia and worldwide) and how large a presence the organization has in the commonwealth.
Some of the people on this list are well-known, longtime corporate and community leaders, with decades of experience. Still others are new to their roles but are on the list due to the prominence of the positions they hold or the scope of their responsibilities.
It’s also important to note that, while many of the people on this list are highly accomplished, inclusion in the Virginia 500 is not an endorsement by Virginia Business. It is simply recognition of a person’s power, influence and importance within their chosen field.
Readers will also notice that some sectors are represented by far more people than other sectors. These decisions were based on factors such as how many large companies or organizations are in a given industry within Virginia and how that sector contributes to the commonwealth’s gross domestic product. Some sectors are largely dominated by a single company. Due to this, we limited the number of executives from a single company and its subsidiaries to three entries.
We noticed some interesting patterns emerge as we assembled the Virginia 500. For example, power runs in some families. We have at least four sets of siblings (the Cohens, Fines, Ukrops and Xus) represented on the list, as well as two father-and-son pairs (the Robertsons and Harvey Lindsay Jr. and his adopted son Bob King).
This project was inspired by business publications in other states: Florida 500 by Florida Trend and Dallas 500 by D CEO. I am particularly grateful to Florida Trend Executive Editor Mark Howard for his time and insights.
We began the initial work on this project in summer 2019. Our selection process started with informally reaching out to select business leaders and economic development officials to solicit nominations. However, the majority of this list was assembled by staff research, based on our own knowledge and publicly available sources such as the Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 lists, annual reports, earnings reports, media articles and news releases.
We sent electronic surveys to about 750 people we were considering for the Virginia 500, asking them to provide information such as their educational background, civic involvement, company revenue and staffing information. We also posed some Proust Questionnaire-like queries to the executives under consideration. Their answers were interesting and illuminating, providing us a glimpse into their personalities, passions and private lives. We received nearly 300 responses, which were invaluable tools in assisting us in making our determinations.
Despite our methodology, this list of Virginia’s top business, education and government leaders is still somewhat subjective. Our list might not match up exactly with your list. In a business-friendly state with an abundance of thriving companies and executives, it’s impossible to include every leader of consequence, even within a list of 500. So we look forward to hearing your thoughts about who should have made the cut.
After all, there’s always next year.