1982

Altos Computer Systems San Jose, Calif. Computer manufacturer

About the same time that INC. was hailing Altos Computer Systems as America's fastest-growing private firm, the company was selling its first shares of stock to the public. And for the next three years, it appeared on INC.'s other listing -- of fast-growing small public companies, the INC. 100. Sales in 1986 were $134 million -- a respectable 8% rise from 1985, but nowhere near the $500-million level once predicted by chief executive officer David Jackson.

Altos continues to design systems primarily for small businesses that need several desk-top terminals hooked into a single database and microprocessor -- a niche between the mainframe and personal-computer markets. International sales now account for 40% of Altos's business and much of its growth.

1983

The Sigal Cos. Washington, D.C. Construction management

You might have thought that Ronald Reagan's arrival would have put the brakes on Washington's runaway construction and development industries. But you'd never know it from Jerry Sigal, who was #1 on our list in 1983 and has been on it every year since. In fact, Sigal (#55) is now working on a $40-million office building a block from the White House. His sales in 1985 were $65 million.

Things are also going well for Ellen Sigal, who runs Sigal-Zuckerman Corp. out of offices just down the hall from her husband, Jerry. With sales topping $100 million, this corporate offspring is now bigger than its progenitor. And this year, Ellen Sigal won a spot on her own list: #21 on Savvy magazine's list of 60 largest U.S. companies owned by women.

1984

Pedus International Inc. Los Angeles Building maintenance/security

From its beginning, Pedus International was Dick Dotts's company -- sort of. He opened its first office, recruited its building managers, negotiated its acquisitions, and as chief executive officer during the company's first six years, managed a compound annual growth rate of about 193%. But what Dick Dotts didn't provide was the initial capital, and what he didn't control was any stock. And in June 1985, after again being refused equity participation by the German businessman who was his boss, Dotts and Pedus parted company.

Pedus without Dotts has continued to grow, although not so fast as to earn a place on this year's 500 listing. As for Dotts, he is now president -- and 35% stockholder -- of DeCastro Maintenance Services Inc.

1985

Herbalife International Los Angeles Health and diet products

In our profile last year, we reported on Herbalife's problems arising from government investigations into its products and marketing techniques. Since then, news accounts of those inquiries have led to a 41% drop in sales and staff cuts of 69%.

In October, Herbalife finally reached agreement with federal and state officials. Although the company did not admit any wrongdoing, it agreed to stop making certain claims about the health and weight-loss benefits of several Herbalife products. Company founder Mark Hughes called the agreement "a milestone for Herbalife" and said the experience gave him "a deeper understanding and a greater appreciation for the crucial [role of government] in protecting the safety of the American consumer."