Private firms often feel strongly about proprietary information -- and get nervous when asked to disclose anything. "After all, we're a private company" is a common refrain. And many business owners are especially tight-lipped when the conversation turns to revenue.
Over the past several months, and continuing until April 15, Inc. and Inc.com have been accepting applications for the inaugural Inc. 5,000 -- a 10-fold expansion of our annual list ranking the nation's fastest-growing private companies. And while many companies have jumped at the chance to apply and be considered among this elite company, there are, as there always have been in the quarter-century history of the Inc. 500 list, companies that balk against sharing their revenue information in order to be considered.
In an attempt to practice what we preach -- disclosure -- we thought we'd take the debate public and address both sides.
Scott Newbert, a professor at Villanova Business School, who studies the viability of start-ups, suggests that a knee-jerk refusal to disclose may not be in a company's best interest. "Appearing on a list like the Inc. 5,000 symbolizes that this is a quality firm," he says. "The benefits of being on the list might outweigh the costs of disclosure."
Hundreds of Inc. 500 alumni, to our pleasant surprise continue to boast of their accomplishment -- putting the Inc. 500 logo on their business cards and websites, sending out their own press releases, sharing the news with their customers, and more. As Junab Ali, co-founder and president of Mobius Partners Enterprise Solutions, which made the list in both 2005 and 2006 told us earlier this year, "Being recognized in the Inc. 500 has been one of the top honors we've received. We used the recognition to build credibility among customers, vendors and peers."
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