1982

Altos Computer Systems

San Jose, Calif.

Computer manufacturer

Although Altos Computer Systems was buffeted with the rest of the computer industry during the shakeout of the mid-1980s, it appears to have regained its footing during the past couple of years. Altos, which went public after heading the INC. 500, had sales in 1987 of $153 million, up a respectable 14%. Its niche in the computer industry is offering networks of super-microcomputers that hook into a single shared database and microprocessor -- a market wedged between freestanding personal computers and larger minicomputers. Where once several dozen companies competed in the market, analysts say there are now only a handful, including such giants as IBM, Digital Equipment, and NCR -- and the much smaller Altos.

1983

The Sigal Cos.

Washington, D.C.

Construction management

After nine years of fantastically fast growth, The Sigal Cos. finally slowed down last year, falling off the INC. 500 after a four-year run. Chief executive officer Jerry Sigal blames tax-law changes in 1986 for much of the decline, saying they created a climate of uncertainty in the construction market, and put many of his projects on hold. Sigal's sales last year were $66 million, up less than 2% from the previous year.

1984

Pedus Service Inc.

Los Angeles

Building maintenance & security

Pedus Service is also slowing down -- in part the result of a near halt in building construction in many of the Southwest cities it serves. Sales last year were $81 million, up about 2.5% over the previous year. Although in the past Pedus had grown largely by acquiring other building maintenance and security firms, chief executive officer Kent Knopinski has shifted to a growth strategy that relies more on diversification. This past year, Pedus started a new subsidiary to provide office suites in New York City and Los Angeles -- all fully furnished, equipped, and staffed -- to businesses that need them when traveling executives are in town. Eighty clients have signed on thus far, with entertainment companies snapping up most of the Los Angeles offices, and finance and investment firms signing up for the Manhattan suites.

1985

Herbalife International

Los Angeles

Health and diet products

Even after settling with Food and Drug Administration officials a year ago over charges of false promises about the powers of its powders, Herbalife is still feeling the repercussions of nationwide negative publicity.

Now a public company, Herbalife's first-quarter sales were $37 million this year, about a sixth of what they were during the first quarter of the company's peak year of 1985. During the past 12 months, the staff at the Los Angeles headquarters has dropped from 300 to 200, while the network of Herbalife salespeople has fallen from its peak of a million to 200,000. International sales, for the most part buffered against the bad publicity, now make up one-third of company business -- last year it was only 20%.

1986

ABC Supply Co.

Beloit, Wis.

Building supplies

Ken Hendricks never thought of building supplies as a particularly glamorous business. So imagine his shock at having four flight attendants ask for his autograph after reading about him in last year's INC. 500. "I didn't believe it," he says, "I mean, we're just your basic American business."

Basic, perhaps, but typical, no: ABC is near the top of the INC. 500 for the fourth straight year. Having dropped down to #31, Hendricks thinks of this as a period of quiet consolidation after acquiring 20 businesses and 64 branch outlets during a 48-month buying spree Among the most difficult to incorporate have been those in Texas, where local managers insist on keeping everything big, including inventories. Hendricks says the only big things he wants in his outlets are profit margins, and he hopes to bring a little midwestern humility to the Texans' business planning. Lots of luck.

Published on: Dec 1, 1987