When the public votes for something, the results can skew based on perception, emotion, or sometimes even the desire to mess with the outcome.

That's how a $300 million state-of-the-art British polar research ship earned the name "Boaty McBoatface." The question of the ship's name was put to an internet vote, and while over 7,000 names were submitted, according to CNN, "Boaty McBoatface" won easily with 124,109 votes. Votes being open to the public have given us many questionable, past-their-prime Major League Baseball all-stars, as well as a whale being tracked by Greenpeace being named Mr. Splashy Pants.

These are all ridiculous votes skewed by a playful public, but they illustrate that sometimes open voting can produce less-than reliable results. In creating its annual Most-Admired Companies List, Fortune does not leave the question open to a public vote. Instead the publication works with its partner Korn Ferry Hay Group to build a list and then survey executives from the companies that make the initial cut.

Sign that says "The Winner is..."

Image source: Getty.

After starting with about 1,500 candidates (the 1,000 largest U.S. companies ranked by revenue, along with non-U.S. companies in Fortune's Global 500 database that have revenues of $10 billion or more), the selections are cut down to the highest-revenue companies in each industry. That leaves 680 companies in 28 countries, and 3,800 insiders affiliated with those companies voted on the list.

"To determine the best-regarded companies in 51 industries, Korn Ferry Hay Group asked executives, directors, and analysts to rate enterprises in their own industry on nine criteria, from investment value and quality of management and products to social responsibility and ability to attract talent," Fortune explained. This, as you can see, is not a fan vote, but an insider's perspective on which companies are most admired by their own executives, competitors, and people who should actually know.

The outside of an Apple store

Apple topped the list of most-admired companies. Image source: Apple.

Which companies are the most admired?

  1. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)
  2. Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN)
  3. Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX)
  4. Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B)
  5. Disney (NYSE:DIS)
  7. General Electric (NYSE:GE)
  8. Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV)
  9. (Tie) Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) / Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)

Why is making this list important?

While there's no definitive benefit to making a list like this, there's a clear value in being well-regarded by industry insiders. The 10 companies above are not only successful, but those best-placed to judge are saying they admire them, which should be taken as a strong positive by shareholders and potential investors. 

"Having the respect of your peers and your competitors is absolutely crucial in business and almost everywhere else," said Fortune's Assistant Managing Editor Nicholas Varchaver in a video that accompanied the list. "Fortune's World's Most-Admired Company's List is a list that embodies precisely that idea."

This isn't a popularity contest or a thrown-off quick vote. It's a fairly in-depth look at the companies most-admired by business leaders. Making the list suggests that these are brands that do things the right way, companies with solid foundations likely to not only be around for the long haul, but to continue to thrive.

Being held in this type of high regard by your competitors may also come with actual advantages. In-demand workers are likely to want to work for companies they admire. The brands on this list likely have an easier time recruiting top talent because they are thought of this way and in competitive markets like coders, top technology executives, and sales leaders, that can be the difference between staying on top and slipping to the back of the pack.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.