One of the greatest dreams and milestones for a start-up is to make the prestigious Inc. 5000 list. With the April 30th deadline looming, I reached out to these past winners to bring you their valuable tips and words of wisdom. Whether or not you seek to make the list, these insights will help you reach your most significant milestones.

In 2005, Brock Blake and his start-up team launched Funding Universe with a vision of connecting entrepreneurs with angel investors and venture capitalists, rebranding to Lendio in 2011. With a growth rate of 1,059 percent over three years, the Lendio team proudly submitted their Inc. 5000 application and joined the ranks of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S.

Likewise, having launched Inc. 5000 award-winning Econohomes in 2006, CEO Jeff Ball started sister company Visio Financial Services, which achieved an impressive year-over-year growth rate of 117 percent in 2014.

How did they do it? These core practices tell the story.

Build a power team.

Blake cites quality employees as the biggest contributing factor to Lendio's success. "We hire people who have a passion for helping small businesses," he says. "During the interview process we not only assess their skills, but also whether or not they'll be a good fit for the Lendio culture.

Ball agrees. "Bad hires can crush a small company's momentum," he says. "Growth can catch a start-up by surprise and tempt leaders to cut corners in hiring high quality people. We've found it is important to follow a standard procedure when hiring folks to avoid rushed hires."

Get everyone on the same page.

When your team members don't work toward the same objective you're not likely to achieve important milestones. "Have your managers meet regularly with their team members and make sure that everyone is working toward a common goal," Blake says.

Focus on core success factors.

Blake knows first-hand that naysayers often discourage startup ideas. "Ignore them and surround yourself with talented professionals, mentors, and leaders who believe in your idea and your business," he says. "Once we validated our idea, we knew we had a big opportunity in front of us and that we needed to stay focused on our core success factors and build upon them."

Blake knows that the Lendio team created some of their own challenges early on when they forgot to keep it simple. "Through focusing on the core success factors of our business we have found innovation, hyper growth, and happiness," says Blake. "If you are not happy running your business, you're not doing it right."

Use quality ingredients.

Ball likens building a business to baking. "There are a number of ingredients and it is important to add them at the right time," he says. "Sometimes the ingredients must be added in combination to have the right effect." For Visio, the combination of affordable capital, talent, and robust business processes are the perfect ingredients.

Tell the whole story in your Inc. 5000 application.

The numbers and figures are all important, but beyond growth numbers, focus on telling your story, your 'why' or your passion. "Show how you're making life better for your customers," Blake suggests. "Inc. is looking for the human side of your story. Talk to them about your struggles, wins, goals, and vision. Data of course, will support your story and help you quantify your positive impact."

"We start our day by asking one simple question," Blake says. "'How can we help save business owners time in getting capital?' The answers drive us and have helped us be recognized on the Inc. 5000. It's humbling and helps us keep moving to accomplish our goals."

Published on: Apr 13, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.