You know that running a fast-growing company involves hard work, luck, and sacrifice. But did you expect the power outages or suggestive customer selfies? As part of our annual CEO survey, the founders and leaders of the 2016 Inc. 500 give us the nitty-gritty on the journey to the top.
Track those trash cans.
"When we started our business, we would look at people's recycling bins. This would help us determine if they were potential customers--if they had any kombucha bottles from our competitors in there, we would leave a flier in the mailbox. The funniest thing that happened during our first year is that at some point, we checked a recycling bin, and all of it was filled with our kombucha."
Jamie Danek Humm Kombucha | Inc. 500 rank 238 | Three-year growth 1,644.5% | 2015 revenue $4.1 million
Know when to fold 'em.
"The hardest decisions were passing on deals that at the time we were uncomfortable with. Looking back, some of the best deals are the ones you don't do. It's hard to say no to growth and acquisitions, but you have to manage it very carefully. One wrong deal can offset 10 good deals at this stage."
Scott Everett S2 Capital | Inc. 500 rank 14 | Three-year growth 9,645.7% | 2015 revenue $28.8 million
Don't stop at just one perk.
"Allow employees to work from home two days per week; cater lunch family-style on Fridays; buy co-working space memberships; encourage participation in professional-development activities like conferences."
Chris Cera Arcweb Technologies | Inc. 500 rank 290 | Three-year growth 1,354.3% | 2015 revenue $3.9 million
Rethink work hours.
"We have implemented a six-hour workday twice a week. And we give our employees dedicated time throughout the year to volunteer for the causes they care about the most: Each employee gets six annual volunteer days, and as a team we participate in one group volunteer day."
Wes Tucker One3LED | Inc. 500 rank 182 | Three-year growth 2,031.3% | 2015 revenue $4.3 million
Beware the snapchat effect.
"We ask customers to send us pictures of their receipts. Our first year, our app users submitted some rather interesting selfies instead."
Jared Schrieber InfoScout | Inc. 500 rank 84 | Three-year growth 3,601.7% | 2015 revenue $6.8 million
Always carry an extra flashlight.
"While driving our 1980s retrofitted school bus to a convention in Seattle, the electrical system shorted and we had to duct tape Maglites to the front of the bus as our headlights."
Chris Davis Loot Crate | Inc. 500 rank 1 | Three-year growth 66,788.6% | 2015 revenue $116.2 million
Don't be afraid to ask for help.
"Our first year, we spent too much time figuring out a manufacturing process instead of hiring someone to help us figure it out."
John Webber Carved | Inc. 500 rank 270 | Three-year growth 1,479.9% | 2015 revenue $2.6 million
Choose quality over quantity.
"One of our most difficult decisions was closing overseas factory relationships and shifting everything to domestic for better quality control. We had to give up a lot of product offerings and revenue when we did that."
M. Daniel Walsh Akston Hughes International | Inc. 500 rank 169 | Three-year growth 2,111.7% | 2015 revenue $3.1 million
Accept that your responsibility only grows.
"Every decision you make as an entrepreneur is a risk you take on behalf of the company and all of its stakeholders. The bigger it gets, the more everyone is counting on you to make the right decisions."
Christian Carr Furniture Solutions Group | Inc. 500 rank 24 | Three-year growth 7,799.6% | 2015 revenue $8.6 million
Recruit talent with (very) high-tech perks.
"Give them 24 hours with robots at their homes."
Elad Inbar RobotLab | Inc. 500 rank 273 | Three-year growth 1,429.4% | 2015 revenue $5.3 million
Be a beacon for your customers.
"The evening of our very first event, a transformer blew in downtown Boston and power was out in most of the city. Our event was at a bar, and miraculously that bar had power while no one else for eight blocks in any direction did."
Daniel Hermann Paint Nite | Inc. 500 rank 2 | Three-year growth 36,555.3% | 2015 revenue $55 million
Can you grow too fast?
"YES. You can never 'buy' revenue or bend values to do anything, much less buy growth. Building a strong, profitable, socially responsible enterprise takes time and lots of effort. A successful business is a decades-long overnight success."
Abhishek Mehta Tresata | Inc. 500 rank 256 | Three-year growth 1,550.6% | 2015 revenue $5.5 million
"NO. I truly believe the greatest business comes from the chaos of growing too fast."
Yi Li Renogy | Inc. 500 rank 444 | Three-year growth 864% | 2015 revenue $18.9 million
"YES. We are testing that limit. It's very difficult to manage cash flow, hiring, and training when you are moving so fast."
Nick Partridge Five Lakes | Inc. 500 rank 286 | Three-year growth 1,364.3% | 2015 revenue $2 million
"NO, as long as the growth is done with integrity and responsibility, and it does not come because of excessive debt or other factors that would make it impossible for the company to survive a black swan or other economic speed bump."
Russell Basch American Pillowcase | Inc. 500 rank 280 | Three-year growth 1,400.1% | 2015 revenue $6.5 million
"YES. I am doing it right now. Getting crushed by success is almost as bad as getting crushed by failure. You can make mistakes or make rash decisions that could have unintended consequences."
Fred Rea Rain City Capital | Inc. 500 rank 375 | Three-year growth 1,024.7% | 2015 revenue $5.9 million