In this issue, for the first time, INC. has expanded its list of the fastest-growing public companies to the next 100 growth companies. We've called it the INC. Second 100 (see page 37). The fact that even these companies show such a dramatic rate of growth is encouraging. Our two lists measure a group of new, small, high-growth frontier companies within the small business economy. That group, we've found, is far larger than most observers realize. If we included companies that "merely" doubled or tripled sales in the last five years, we might be forced to publish the INC. 1,000!
Now we need your help to expand our effort to cover the high-growth segment of small business. In the near future we are going to compile a list of the fastest-growing privately held companies, and we need your help to locate them.
We invite you to nominate one company that you're familiar with that is growing rapidly. A card for you to make your nomination is bound into the magazine at page 30. It lists the qualifications for a company to make our list.
Why are we extending the INC. small business growth roster to include privately owned companies? The universe of companies from which we draw the present INC. 200 is made up of some $30,000 publicly held companies that are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Far more companies have chosen to grow just as rapidly without the scrutiny that public ownership demands. The universe from which these companies come is made up of over a million corporations and 10 million proprietorships and partnerships. We want to recognize their growth because they and their achievements are every bit as important to other small business people as are those of the public companies.
We are concerned with growth -- the ability to achieve it, the internal and external obstacles to it, and the public policy climate that makes growth easy or hard. In the same way, we are concerned with the size of the whole small business sector. We care about the stability, profitability, and economic value of all small businesses, whether they are dynamic growers or not, whether they are public or not. Boyd Hill's $2-million wholesale lumber operation (see page 80) is just as important to us as Jim Treybig's $109-million computer company (see page 46).
Each issue of INC. underscores the relevance of the same factors to growth or the lack of it, to stability or the lack of it, for small businesses of every kind and size. In The Buck Stops Here (page 156), for instance, we talk about a federal tax package that would meet as many of the needs of small businesses as possible.
Not long ago, I was given conflicting advice on this subject by two devoted INC. readers. In Miami, one of the two urged us to "carry more stuff about self-starters and mom-and-pop businesses -- the really small companies that have fewer than 10 employees." Two days later in New Orleans, another entrepreneur said he loved the magazine, but "Why don't you run more stories about the bigger small companies: the ones that go all the way up to $500 million in sales?"
It's natural for owners and managers of businesses of different sizes to be anxious for us to pay more attention to companies their size. We think it takes a little imagination to learn from the experience of a company that's much smaller or larger than yours. But INC. is fortunate to have an audience of entrepreneurs who are imaginative enough to understand this.
Last month we quoted from a study of small business in the United States, Japan, and five Western European countries. It is worth repeating to explain why we are both sensitive and insensitive to size differences within the small business sector. It emphasizes how much more important all small business is than any part of it.
"There has been a growing realization from the early 1970s onwards that an economic system dominated by large firms, trade unions, and a growing public sector is inflation-prone and illadapted to cope with the material and social stresses of long-term economic change. There is now, in short, a strong intellectual case for the argument that inflation-free growth will not be resumed until there has been a massive shift in economic resources toward small firms." (Italics added. From "The Promotion of Small Business: A 7-Country Study," by Graham Bannock, Economists Advisory Group Ltd. for Shell UK Ltd., December 1980.)
Think about the connection between that quotation and our request to you for help in identifying the INC. Privately Owned 100. There is one. Please fill out the nomination card for us -- and for yourself.