The reasons behind a company's hockey-stick growth can be varied, of course. One company's software or consumer product can land at the exact perfect moment when consumers want it most (Zoom, Peloton ... ahem). Other companies may succeed because they're doing something that's been done but they're doing it with far more efficiency and verve than their predecessors. Still other companies can thank good old-fashioned gumption.
No matter the reasons, a few things remain constant across all fast-growth companies: They go where no one else will. They get comfortable being uncomfortable. They take the risks no one else wants to take. Here, 17 of this year's fastest-growing private companies across seven regions describe just one reason why they've managed to come out on top:
1. Don't be a hero.
"Early on, I thought the answer to solving problems was to work through them--just keep working, 24/7. It took time to learn that working hard is only part of the equation. Yes, you often need to wear 10 different hats, but you also need to find the right talent. I now believe that's the most important piece of growing a business. You need a great team to make great things happen."
--Brixton Albert, founder and CEO of Performance Golf (No. 4 Southeast), an online golf trainer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
2. Take risks.
"You're going to make mistakes. Ninety-nine percent of what happens is how you respond to things. Don't be afraid to try something new and buck the norm."
--Anthony Perera, founder and CEO of Air Pros USA (No. 5 Southeast), an HVAC repair company in Hollywood, Florida
3. Distribute decision-making.
"Give people autonomy to make decisions within your organization. Especially when you're remote--you don't have the luxury of sticking your head into someone's office to ask them a question. Letting people make decisions on their own has helped us operate and grow."
--David Brasfield, founder and CEO of NXTsoft (No. 6 Southeast), a fintech company in Birmingham, Alabama
4. Get it right, right away.
"I started my last business in my 20s; I was really learning on the job. We didn't have the right structures in place to ensure every employee knew exactly what they were doing. That can create communication breakdowns. This time around, I was really diligent about putting systems in place. From our mission statement to annual goals, every employee now knows exactly what success means for them."
--Joel Holland, CEO of Harvest Hosts (No. 3 Rocky Mountain), an RV vacation membership club in Vail, Colorado
5. Take time for you.
"It takes a lot of energy and sleepless nights to work at a company that is growing as fast as ours. You've got to make sure your personal health is OK. I do CrossFit in the middle of the day for an hour to recharge. That has done a lot for me and dramatically increased my productivity."
--Brett Stevens, co-founder and CEO of Fohse (No. 1 Rocky Mountain), a manufacturer of LED grow lights in Las Vegas
6. Don't panic.
"When you have a hundred things going on and a hundred decisions to make, it can be easy for excitement and momentum to turn into panic. I dived in. As a team, we strive to be as present and mindful as we can be. We seem to do our best work when we're most challenged."
--Brian Larsen, co-founder and CEO of RestoraPet (No. 3 Mid-Atlantic), a pet supplements maker in Gaithersburg, Maryland
7. Get out and network.
"Don't hide behind the computer--get out there and explain your vision and mission. When we were in total startup mode, I was at an event at least three times a week. Eventually, with enough networking, you'll find that one person who gives you that shot."
--Glenn Diersen, founder and president of Summit Human Capital (No. 1 Mid-Atlantic), an employer of record in Richmond, Virginia
8. Fight the urge to say yes.
"As a founder and entrepreneur, I want to say yes to everything. But as we've tried to own our culture and own our value proposition, it's become easier and easier to look at a potential customer and say, I don't think this is the right fit."
--JC Grubbs, founder and CEO of Tandem (No. 86 Midwest), a software consultancy in Chicago
9. Look for strategic partnerships.
"We've built our business off being nimble through the use of strategic partnerships. I go to different companies and propose products and partnerships, and then we work together--I call it my pantry. We're just putting different ingredients together."
--Michael Walters, founder and president of studio503 (No. 4 Midwest), a strategic business development firm in Maple Grove, Minnesota
10. Don't hate the haters.
"When our products were inundated with fake negative reviews on Amazon, it stung. But we eventually realized it was beyond our control. I learned not to focus on the negative. Instead, we refocused on our main goal of helping people."
--Law Payne, co-founder of Hardbody Supplements (No. 2 Midwest), a fitness and supplements brand in Overland Park, Kansas
11. Find an opportunity.
"When we began in mid-2017, there was a misconception in sports media: Fandom was waning. It wasn't; it just switched--from big screens in living rooms to little ones in our pockets."
--Brian Verne, co-founder and CEO of Wave Sports + Entertainment (No. 2 Pacific), a media firm in Santa Monica, California
12. Zig when others zag.
"I spent a month watching YouTube tutorials to learn about Facebook ads. Then I looked for ways to differentiate. My idea: write copy sets that were like stories--my story. It caught people's eye."
--Shane Heath, founder and CEO of MUD/WTR (No. 3 Pacific), a coffee alternative maker in Venice, California
13. Create intrapreneurs.
"We have a lot of intrapreneurs, people with strong sales teams who are great with cash flow. Creating attractive, long-term incentive plans for sales leaders has been crucial for increasing our revenue."
--Aaron Weymann, founder and CEO of Kayo Energy (No. 3 Southwest), a solar panel sales company in Tempe, Arizona
14. Focus on your finances.
"Make sure you're focusing on your financials first. They say 90 percent of small businesses fail, and a lot of that has to do with their inability to compete with larger companies and the resources they have. I'm not talking about just HR and hiring, but also how important financial models and forecasting are to the health of the business."
--Emerson Smith, founder and CEO of Pushnami (No. 1 Southwest), a digital messaging platform in Austin
15. Don't let culture be an afterthought.
"We didn't build our company from focus-group learnings or anything like that. But we did think about culture early on. Once you grow and scale quickly, you can't back into culture. It has to come from the ground up."
--Bill Shufelt, co-founder and CEO of Athletic Brewing Company (No. 2 Northeast), a maker of non-alcoholic craft beers based in Stratford, Connecticut
16. Look at metrics.
"If someone is calling into a call center for a prescription, they're probably already unhappy. So, we put the patient first--and we keep an eye on our metrics. Growth is a familiar one. But the other metric I point to is customer satisfaction. We have a Net Promoter Score of 96, which is absolutely heroic. In health care, the industry average is 14."
-A.J. Loiacono, co-founder and CEO of Capital Rx (No. 3 Northeast), a pharmacy benefit manager based in New York City
17. Stay honest.
"When so much is happening so quickly, you've just got to be speaking the truth all the time. Be as transparent as possible, with your team, with your customers, with your investors--with everybody. Talk about failures or things that aren't going well, chiefly. That way, you can destigmatize those things and work on them more effectively."
--Dan O'Malley, co-founder and CEO of Numerated (No. 4 Northeast), a digital lending platform in Boston