microsoft-building99Is it Bill Gates and his foundation? The company’s corporate giving program? Or maybe it’s just Steve Ballmer’s passion-packed speeches.

Whatever the reason, Americans believe Microsoft is the most-inspiring company according to a new study by consulting firm Performance Inspired.

The firm, which helps leaders of organizations learn how to activate inspiration in others, surveyed nearly 5,000 consumers about five companies they find inspirational and reasons for why. It found that people who are inspired by certain corporations tend to spend more with those companies, encourage others to do so as well, and exhibit loyalty to the company.

Microsoft, which came in first place three years ago, returned to the top spot in 2013. Apple, meanwhile, dropped all the way to 12th after finishing in first for the past two years.

From left: Bill Gates, Brad Smith, Steve Ballmer and United Way King County CEO Jon Fine speak at Microsoft’s 30th Employee Giving Campaign event.
From left: Bill Gates, Brad Smith, Steve Ballmer and United Way King County CEO Jon Fine speak at Microsoft’s 30th Employee Giving Campaign event.

Terry Barber, the “chief inspiration officer” with Performance Inspired, told Forbes that people respect how, despite bringing in huge profits, Microsoft runs a generous giving program. The Redmond company’s Employee Giving Campaign has raised $1 billion in cash since 1983 for approximately 31,000 nonprofits and community organizations worldwide.

Each year, Microsoft matches contributions to all eligible nonprofits up to $15,000 per employee, as well as volunteer time at $17 per hour. When the campaign began in 1983, 200 employees raised $17,000 for nonprofits. That’s a far cry from the 35,000 workers who raised more than $100 million in 2012.

Steve Ballmer gave another inspiring speech at his final company-wide annual meeting last week in Seattle.

Barber also added that “visionary CEOs,” were important in terms of inspiring consumers. Microsoft’s Ballmer, who is leaving the company within 12 months, could certainly be labeled as inspiring.

“This isn’t about any one person — it’s about this company,” Ballmer said at his final company-wide annual meeting last week. “It’s about a company that is important, forward thinking, that’s innovative, that’s ethical, that hires great people and lets them lead great lives, that helps people around the world realize their full potential.”

Google came in seventh-place, while Amazon finished right behind in eighth. Three other Seattle-based companies made the list: Starbucks (13th), Costco (14th) and REI (24th).

Here’s the full list of the top 25 most-inspiring companies:

1. Microsoft
2. Disney
3. Walmart
4. Chick-fil-A
5. Target
6. McDonald’s
7. Google
8. Amazon
9. Johnson & Johnson
10. Toms Shoes
11. The Coca-Cola Company
12. Apple
13. Starbucks
14. Costco
15. Ford
16. Whole Foods Market
17. Southwest Airlines
18. Wegmans Food Markets
19. Goodwill Industries
20. Pepsi
21. Nike
22. American Express
23. Zappos
24. REI
25. Kohl’s

So, readers, does Microsoft inspire you?

Update, 10:20 a.m. on 10/2: This story was updated to reflect the fact that Microsoft increased its corporate match from $12,000 per employee to $15,000.  

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  • guest

    In a word, no.

  • guest

    J&J at #9? Really? That’s dubious.

  • Todd Shelton


  • daguz

    Yes, they inspire me to never use their products.

    • Out For Justice

      Giving == achived
      Products == under achived

      • Hubi

        Spelling achived???

  • James Taylor

    Good to see that Chic-fil-a made the top 5… seems credible.

    • Brian

      Not bad for a company that has a homophobic CEO and COO.

      • James Taylor

        Yes, that’s what I meant.

      • Sunny

        You are misinformed. Ballmer appointed Brummel personally to lead HR. Get your facts strait before you post lies.

        • EDC

          Sunny – I think he meant Chic-fil-a not Microsoft for the homophobic comment. MS clearly is not homophobic and their benefits, hiring, and culture support that fact. Chic-fil-a is very proud to be against gay rights. They brag about it.

  • Christina Halasz

    I can see that.

  • guest

    It is such a great company with an incredible history and track record of success. Lot’s of people compare Msft with Google, Apple and Amazon – well they have ALL proven to be great companies. Praising one does not diminish the others

    • Jerry

      Exactly. Thank you for giving me hope. I’m finally not alone.

  • Dr. Hank Scorpio

    Correction — Microsoft now matches up to $15,000.

    • MOHCTP

      Yes, and all I had to do was ask!

    • Taylor Soper

      Hi Dr. Hank,

      We just confirmed this with Microsoft and updated the story. Thanks for nothing this, and thanks for reading.

  • Henry Park

    Given MS has a lot of programs to “help” and “fuel” innovations(i.e. DreamSpark and etc.)… I can see them winning over the general population…

  • guest

    3. Walmart
    4. Chick-fil-A

    Come again? Geekwire, you’ve either sold out, or you don’t know any better. Either case, you’ve lost my business.

    • WixosTrix

      Walmart provides very affordable products to people all across this country. Sure they kill smaller business in the process, but they do provide nonetheless.

      Chick-fil-A is pretty damn good, despite the views of the CEO, not sure how they’re inspiring though.

      • awakeinwa

        discount store inspires very little. ditto with chicken restaurant.

        i mean raise your sights man

        • WixosTrix

          How are you to say something/someone doesn’t inspires someone. Do you know everyone on the planet to have ask them? Walmart is a very successful business that I’m sure many aspire to replicate.

          Perhaps you should open your mind a little more.

          • Brett Simonsen

            The Waltons have more wealth than the bottom 40% of America, how is that inspiring?

    • rjmlive

      Wut? Who you mad at bro?

      “Americans believe Microsoft is the most-inspiring company according to a new study by consulting firmPerformance Inspired… “…surveyed nearly 5,000 consumers about five companies they find inspirational and reasons for why.”

      Oh wait, as a guest, you were giving them business.. All those ads you clicked. Please don’t go.. you contribute so much.. especially in relevant comments.

  • Phil Winkel

    lol who the fuck came up with that list

  • steve

    Walmart # 3 most Inspiring Company? WTF?

  • Adriel D. Mingo

    Oh yes. Well deserved. They have great programs for students, cater to vast number of people with their software service at different price points. And what brings not home for me is that they made personal computing accessible to the average man.

  • आर्यन

    Bill gates = Real life Thomas Wayne. But WalMart #3? Is this even real? You could make a drama/reality show with the footage from WalMart security/surveillance cameras

  • Samantha

    Is this for the most part about who gives most to charities? Many companies give to charities to cover up other scandals or misplaced business strategies. Walmart and Chick Fil A being atop this list attest to that.

  • rjmlive

    I don’t know about inspiring, but they are clearly the tech company of the future.

    Services better than Google, Hardware rivaling Apple, Infrastructure outclassing Amazon, the global standard office productivity software, the true next generation gaming console in Xbox One, Windows Phone going to overtake global IOS marketshare in 5 years (guaranteed), and One experience over all of their consumer platforms in Windows “Metro” interface.

    The only exiting company to watch right now. Everyone else is just coasting, Microsoft is changing and moving.

  • Out For Justice

    – Red ring of death (Xbox)
    – Blue screen of death (Windows)
    – a day late and a dollar short (Mobile)
    – reboot central (Windows Server)
    – backwards / poor security model (Windows)
    – bloatware (Tablet)
    – Confused (Tablet / Desktop)
    – mismanage employee growth and ongoing evaluations (HR)

    Yeah, inspiring…

    • Curtis8

      Troll much?

      • Out For Justice

        If by troll you mean, have an opinion and not afraid to speak my mind, then yes.

        • Curtis8

          There is a difference between having an opinion and trying to bash something.

          Allow me to help you out:
          – Red ring of death (Xbox)
          -> Name me one product made by *anyone* that has been perfect for *every* unit.

          – Blue screen of death (Windows)
          -> Really? Did you know that MS is not the cause of every BSOD?

          -> “BSoDs can be caused by poorly written device drivers or malfunctioning hardware, such as faulty memory, power supply issues, overheating of components, or hardware running beyond its specification limits. In the Windows 9x era, incompatible DLLs or bugs in the operating system kernel could also cause BSoDs.”

          – a day late and a dollar short (Mobile)
          -> Windows Mobile existed *several* years before the iPhone or Android. I had a Windows Smart Phone back in 2005.

          – reboot central (Windows Server)
          -> Do not have a Windows Server, can not comment.

          – backwards / poor security model (Windows)
          -> And here MS just received “government security certification”

          – bloatware (Tablet)
          -> Really? How do you figure? I Run Win8 Pro on my tablet and there was no extra crap installed. Most often it is the OEMs that add the Crap, not MS.

          – Confused (Tablet / Desktop)
          -> Maybe you but usage would show that Win8 is ahead of OSX, and only behind WinXP and Win7

          -> So maybe you are confused.

          – mismanage employee growth and ongoing evaluations (HR)
          -> I can not comment on this either, as I have no link to MS.

          • Out For Justice

            Actually, I would argue that MS is responsible for every BSOD. Why? Because they came up with the driver model and how it affects the kernel. They also HAD an undue influence on the graphics card manufacturers, which is why Linus Torvalds gave Nvidia the finger…

          • Curtis8

            You could, yet you would be wrong.
            “The term “Blue Screen of Death” originated during OS/2 pre-release development activities at Lattice Inc, the makers of an early Windows and OS/2 C compiler”
            Having an opinion is not trolling. Having an opinion with no supporting evidence other than your own hate *is* trolling.

          • Out For Justice

            Oh, that’s right. MS purchases products, they don’t make them. And they do not take responsibility for their mistakes…
            ..”those that can’t create, litigate”

            And, I have plenty of evidence, it is just not worth my time, here you go:

          • Curtis8
          • Out For Justice

            It’s not unusual for MS to hide the truth or blame others for their mistakes. If BSOD was an issue in OS/2, then MS should have taken responsibility for the code base and improved it. So experiencing the BSOD in Windows is evidence, in fact it is first hand evidence.

          • Curtis8

            If ignorance is bliss, you have got to be one of the happiest people I have met.

          • Curtis8


            I guess Microsoft is in your new iPhones then? :D

    • Sugadevan

      you need to be updated, I mean even trolls like you should come out of the cave! don’t be a stupid :)

      • Out For Justice

        Oops, I forgot to mention the more current $900 billion write off for a crappy Surface, but I did cover the bloatware part of the Surface (i.e. Tablet). Oh, and I forgot to mention the indecisiveness of the Xbox team (three OSs and the inability to set any sort of lasting policy). And as far as being a troll, well you really should look at your own actions MS fanboy, but I guess that would require intelligence, so I’m likely “barking up the wrong tree”. :)

        • Joshua Christensen

          $900 million, actually.

          • Out For Justice

            good point!

        • Sugadevan

          $900 Billion? its 900million u genius.. and they are not going to drop ARM, anyone who know about technology will know that ARM has its own future and MS will go forward with ARM, Surface 2 already giving middle finger to haters like you. Surface devices are the best in class, and anyone will know it if they used it for at least 30 mins. if surface have bloat ware, then iPads have Trojans!!

          Its not “indecisiveness” u fool, its called responding to feedback! and they “decided” to respond to some of not so futuristic customers who don’t want to go with technology. It happens in consumer world..

          You guys are living in mars? forgot all of Sony’s big U turns? ok lets see..
          The original Xbox had a hard drive, Sony derided it, then added it for the PS3.
          360 had achievements, Sony laughed, then added their own called entitlements, then renamed it trophies.
          Microsoft charged for Live, Sony used it as a marketing plan to try to win against Xbox. Then Sony started charging for PSN+, and now they are charging for online play with PS4.
          Sony likes to bash “always on” as an attack against Xbox One, but then talk about how great all their features are that require an always online connection.
          Sony likes to proclaim they are all about games and not tv, that they don’t need cloud support, then talk about how much their console is used for Netflix, add new online video streaming sites (twitch), and make partnerships with Rackspace for cloud.
          I could go on and on..

          Im a MS fan boy because I love MS products, WHO THE F ARE YOU? you are a senseless hater who shamelessly like to spend time on hating something, what’s the point? If u don’t like something, don’t use or talk about it! U haters taking so much care about MS than fan boys. If MS is dying, failing then let it.. why you are trying so hard?? why so serious about something you don’t like? what’s your motive?

          If I hate MS, I wont bother about it and I wont shamelessly go and comment in every MS related article, thts disgusting and I wont waste my damn time on something useless.

          Millions and millions loves to use a product that u hate.
          FYI, Already more than about 120 millions are using windows 8/8.1 (more than all OSX versions combined), Xbox One will continue to rule, Surface devices already catching up for business, office will grow and grow, Azure is going to make history, windows phone has already surpassed iPhone market share in many markets, RT and windows phones are going to merge, universal store, diversifying the company is already making good things, watch out for MS in 2014 and u haters will have a lot of bad news next year from MS. and of course haters like you will continue to rant “Microsoft is dying” for another 100 years!

          Talking about BSOD? in 2013? really? I think trolls need to rethink about their strategy.. you, STFU,GTFO!!

    • SilverChariot

      Out for Justice (out for troll) !!!!!

      • Out For Justice

        How much did MS pay you for that comment?

        • SilverChariot

          Very less than what you get from Apple :P

  • Adam Benzion

    I’m inspired by the greater Seattle area with 5 of these companies located right here.

  • Jason Farris

    I’m positive on Microsoft’s future.

  • Guest

    I’m surprised. But MS is finally doing some interesting things lately. I guess regular people are starting to notice.

  • Andrew

    I am very curious and tempted to think this would be a wise time to buy Microsoft stock. Fast forward four years when Alan Mullaly has streamlined operations and the stock is in the $50s. Ford was a unique case with the decline of the American automotive industry but the stock going from $1 to $17 in four years is remarkable.

    They can dispel rumors all they want but I think Mullaly has been the #1 choice and plan for a year or two.

  • Horacio Frometa

    Microsoft will always be my number one company in the world… Windows 95, XP, 7… And 8 is just the beginning of the new era for Microsoft and us: consumers, not fans… One Company for All, that’s how I see Microsoft…

  • Rob

    Microsoft now matches up to $15,000 per year for employee contributions.

    • Taylor Soper

      Hi Rob,

      Thanks for noting that. We confirmed with Microsoft and updated the story. Thanks again for reading.

  • Chilly

    Chick-fil-A is extremely inspiring, but not quite as inspiring as Walmart.

    • Joe

      That’s funny right there.

  • George Byers

    Americans think McDonald’s is a more aspiring company than apple, says alot…

  • warrenbedoya

    Half these companies are terrible, mistreat/underpay employees, rip off/malnourish customers, support unethical causes, and outsource production. This list must have been compiled by misinformed/uniformed morons… pretty much the majority of Americans.

  • guest

    Absolutely ! No Questions about it

  • ScrewThisList

    Integrity of this list was compromised soon as they even considered WalMart. The fact WalMart was ranked higher than much more innovative and inspiring companies, such as Google and Amazon to name a few, is asinine. #3, really?

  • guest

    Yes, Microsoft inspires me, but Apple and Google do as well. Three very inspiring technology

    When thinking about inspiration, especially as it pertains to technology, I try not
    to look at these companies in the short term. I try not to let one portion of
    their work influence my overall perception. My uncle is 70 and just purchased
    an iPhone. That’s inspiring. My friend was able to buy a great Windows 8 laptop
    for $450 and he loves it. He likes the device and the OS. That’s inspiring. My
    daughter is able to use many of the advanced Google search features. Also

    I appreciate seeing folks focus on what their favorite technology company is
    doing right (or better) vs. spending their efforts trying to make others
    dislike a given technology company. I would expect true fans of technology to
    have an appreciation for multiple types of products, services, devices. You can
    have an appreciation for Bing, even if you prefer Google. Or an appreciation
    for iPhones, even if you like Android.

    My 2 cents.

  • moxie

    Why all the mis-interpretation. This article mostly pools from the people who actually work at these companies. Microsoft is more than #1 on this list, and it’s to no surprise the turnover rate is really, really low. People stay at Microsoft. Some of these company’s turnover rate is abysmal.

  • daov

    As they are leaders in charity work compared to the other companies, are proud of their diversity and have made big, painful leaps in their software that were not well accepted but were willing to leap anyway, I can see this.
    Maybe to someone who gets inspired by capitalism…Realistically, who gets ‘inspired’ by ANY of these companies? Really?

  • Iván Hernando V Góngora

    Microsoft has won over time most of the battles in got into. It inspires me for sure!!

  • Sean_L

    Of course it does inspire. It’s the only company that is inspiring to revolutionize instead of evolution as apple does now. MSFT is taking risks and leaps ahead the competition. It helped me as an entrepreneur to start my own company and build products that connect the world.

  • Tayron

    Disney, haha ha :)

  • Tred

    Good idea!

  • Bred Pit

    Disney, ha ha ha :)

  • Bred Pit

    G+ it’s a social network without people

  • Stas


  • Stas


  • Stas

    Test test.

  • Stas 2

    Test 2.

  • Stas

    test 3.

  • Stas

    Test 3.

  • Stas

    Test 4.

  • Stas

    Test 5.

  • Lisa

    Disney on the second place? Ha, ha ha!

    • Smithers_Jones

      All about the money…

  • Andrew Davis

    Wal-mart and McDonald’s ahead of Amazon, Google, and Apple. Call my cynical, but this article seems to lack credibility.

  • Marlos

    Mcdonalds outran Google? O_o

  • Smithers_Jones

    What a crock. How much did Microsoft pay to get to the top of this list I wonder?

  • Richard Soper

    Walmart at number 3? WHAT THE FUCK AMERICA?
    What has Walmart inspired you to do? If your answer is anything but “support my local retailers” then you are a part of whats wrong with this country.

  • guest

    Amazon 8th? Really?
    For me Amazon is “the” company.

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