To compile this year's list, we contacted more than 500,000 businesses and pored over the financial statements of qualified applicants. As always, Inc. 500 companies must be independent and privately held. But to better reflect the increased pace of change in today's economy, we've shortened our measurement period. New members of the list must have an operating history of at least four years. Inc. 500 alumni are still measured over five years. But all companies are ranked according to their average annual sales growth. We also boosted our minimum revenue requirements -- to net sales of $200,000 in fiscal 2000 (1999 for alumni) and $2 million in revenue for fiscal 2003, compared with $100,000 and $1 million, respectively.