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The Other Number Ones

Fast growth isn't the only way to measure success. Meet four CEOs who stand out in other ways.
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Highest Revenue Per Employee: Vizio

The Cash Machine

Last year, the flat-screen television maker Vizio had 100 employees and sales of $1.9 billion. Or to put it in slightly different terms: Vizio's revenue-per-employee was a staggering $19.3 million. William Wang, founder of the Irvine, California -- based company, credits an unusually lean business model in which nearly everything besides design is outsourced to contractors overseas. It's an efficient way of making TVs, which, Wang says, has not gone unnoticed by rivals such as Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Samsung. "They're doing everything they can to copy us," he says. "That proves we're doing something right."

Largest Woman-Owned Business (By Revenue): The Saxon Group

A Family Affair

The construction business is in Jeni Bogdan's blood. Her grandfather was an electrician, and her father owned an industrial construction firm, at which she worked in high school and college. Growing up, she accompanied her dad on visits to job sites across the country. "I always loved going to sites and seeing how things were built," says Bogdan, who went on to found her own company, now called The Saxon Group, in 1991. She led it to sales of $81.8 million last year.

Oldest Inc. 500 Company: Borrego Solar Systems

The 21-Year-Old Upstart

In 2001, Borrego Solar Systems was a shell of a company, based way out in the Anza-Borrego desert, east of San Diego, that hadn't done much to speak of in five years. Aaron Hall, a senior at Northwestern University, saw an opportunity to revive it. For an economics class, he wrote a new business plan for the company and presented it to the company's founder, a family friend. Hall's strategy -- to expand the focus to commercial and government clients -- breathed new life into the company, which was 21 years old at the time. "We brought the business out of the desert and into the city," says Hall. "Essentially, we were a start-up."

Service Financial: Largest Sole Proprietorship

I Want to Be Alone

Revenue growth almost always means employee growth. Not at Service Financial, a Milwaukee-based company that helps broker deals between financial professionals nationwide. The 13-year-old company, which has seen sales rise 3,239 percent, to $11 million, over the past three years, has just one person on the payroll -- founder John Michael Stevens. How does he do it? By being extra, extra nice to his contractors. "If someone brings us business, they often get the lion's share of the revenue," Stevens says. "My advice for other single stakeholders is to take care of the people who help you."

Last updated: Sep 1, 2008




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