The INC. 100 ranks companies by their percentage increase in revenues over the past five years -- in this case, 1980-84. To be included on the list, each company must meet the following criteria:

1. The company is an independent corporation in a manufacturing, mining, wholesaling, retailing, or service industry. Banks, other financial institutions, and utilities are excluded.

2. The company was publicly held as of December 31, 1984.

3. The company shows an operating/sales history of at least five years, with growth during its 1984 fiscal year. Companies showing growth in the 1980-84 base period but a sales decline in the last year are excluded.

4. The company's 1980 sales were at least $100,000 but no more than $25 million.

INC.'s research staff gathers preliminary data on companies from prospectuses, 10-Ks, annual reports, and various directories, supplementing this data with information from a wide array of newsletters, trade magazines, and other business publications. By applying the four criteria listed above, and by using a five-year growth cutoff of 400%, INC. reduced the number of potential qualifiers for the list to 302. Among those screened were 550 companies that went public in 1984.

Once the list was narrowed, INC. conducted telephone interviews with executives of each qualifying company to verify the figures.

An editorial team led by assistant research editor Sara Baer-Sinnott and senior researchf editor Elyse M. Friedman selected the 1985 INC. 100. They were assisted by Bradford W. Ketchum III, William Kilbourne III, Nancy McMillan, Andrew McSherry, Lucinda Sholley, and Linda Webster. The published material is the only information INC. will make available.