The stream of distressing economic developments around the globe has been relentless in recent months. But it's nothing that has to stand in the way of rapidly growing your business.  

No doubt you've heard your share of troubling news about China and other emerging market economies, as well as market gyrations caused by the falling price of oil and other commodities. And while the U.S. economy has remained comparatively stable, most economists surmise that without really strong global demand, the country's low level of economic growth is likely to continue for some time.

Happily, businesses on the Inc. 5000 list of the U.S.'s fastest-growing private companies are showing how to overcome the doldrums. Here's a snapshot of four companies, from four different industries, who are deftly strategizing ways to keep sales brisk in today's uncertain climate.

1. E-commerce

Whiplash Merchandising, a shipping logistics company for online retailers based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is No. 457 on the Inc. 5000 list, with revenue of $3.8 million in 2015. It plans to increase revenues by 80 percent this year in part by helping foreign e-commerce companies sell to U.S. consumers. In late 2015, it opened a division in London to handle European sales to the U.S., as well as sales from U.S. merchants to customers overseas. "Two percent growth wouldn't give me the self-determination or motivation to get out of bed," says James Marks, the company's chief executive and co-founder. Whiplash is also exploring logistics opportunities in China, to allow U.S. companies to sell there.

2. Housing

Express Modular of Martinsburg, West Virginia, a modular home-building business founded by Kenneth Semler in 2008, has 10 employees and $8 million in revenue. It's No. 378 on the Inc. 5000. Semler is tapping pent-up demand from new homebuyers who have a price point between $250,000 and $1 million. He expects to increase sales by about 25 percent to $8 million in 2016, partly by appealing to home purchasers who don't want to wait the typical year or more for a new home. By contrast, Semler says his modular homes take six months or less to construct, so customers holding construction loans can move into their new houses sooner and need less time and money for their interim accommodations. For 2016, Semler hopes to increase to 80 the number of homes his company sells, from 50 last year. While Express Modular has traditionally gotten most of its sales from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, it's focusing more attention on the Northwest and upper Midwest states, which Semler says are ripe for his product. He's also trying to ramp up sales by beefing up his website's capacity (for example, by showing more housing floor plans), and by partnering with real estate agents.

3. Services

Optima Tax Relief is No. 3 on the Inc. 5000. The Santa Ana, California, company expects to grow revenues by 45 percent to $80 million in 2016 by rolling out more services. Although Optima's bread and butter is in tax and debt resolution services for small businesses and consumers, in the last year it has expanded into tax preparation. Harry Langenberg, the company's managing partner and founder, says the company has managed to stay atop the Inc. list by increasing its offerings, such as a web portal that lets new clients enroll and check their accounts, as well as by tapping new social media-based advertising opportunities. Optima has also created new services for the increasing rolls of 1099 workers cropping up from Uber and Airbnb, who need to keep track of what they owe on a quarterly basis, Langenberg says. Contract workers, including independent contractors with their own businesses and the new breed of 1099 workers, now make up two-thirds of his customer base, up from 50 percent a year ago. "It is our fastest-growing segment," Langengberg says.

4. Manufacturing

Andy & Evan Industries, based in New York City, sells upscale children's clothing to high-end retailers such as Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue. It manufactures in China, and has been able to get savings of 5 to 20 percent on costs due to the economic headwinds that country is currently facing. It's done that by moving parts of its production from plants in heavily populated, more expensive coastal areas to places farther inland. In an attempt to increase revenues, partner and co-founder Jonathan Perl last year began selling online, both through his own website and via his established retailers. Meanwhile, he's also recently tapped markets in Western Europe, specifically through more downmarket retailers. "It's a great situation for us, because it does not dilute our offering here," says Perl. Andy & Evan is No. 142 on the Inc. 5000, and expects 25 percent revenue growth in 2016, to about $5 million.

Published on: Feb 4, 2016