Our annual Hot 100 issue has always been one of my favorites. (Many thanks to Kirk Walden and the other folks at PricewaterhouseCoopers, our new Hot 100 partners who helped make this special issue possible.) It's what entrepreneurship is all about: success. In this case, the success comes early--the Hot 100 highlights young (5 years old or less), fast-growing (we measure the companies on revenue growth), successful businesses. Looking at this year's list shows there's no such thing as cookie-cutter entrepreneurial success: Not only are the entrepreneurs themselves diverse, but so are the types of businesses they own.
There are many lessons to be learned from the Hot 100, some for you entrepreneurs and some for others. You, better than anyone, understand what it takes to go from zero to 60 in the entrepreneurial equivalent of the blink of an eye. Or, like the founder of Huron Consulting Group, this year's No. 1 company, you know what it's like to be trapped in a corporate nightmare, a victim of other people's bad judgment.
As I said, in this listing, we measure success by relatively short-term revenue growth. Obviously, that's only one measure of what makes a successful entrepreneur. And that's where the lessons for others come in. In the past decade, you entrepreneurs have become a hot market. Billion-dollar companies want to sell you things. Lots of things. But they don't necessarily measure success the same way you do. You are entrepreneurs because you see what others can't (or won't). You may be sitting there on Day One, like Crown Partners (No. 85 in the Hot 100) with no employees and only $6,000 to your name. But you know in your head and in your heart that you'll soon be a $5 million company. Some marketers understand that and are very eager to talk to you. Others prefer to wait and see if you're going to make it.
But then there are marketers who ignore your sales (and likely even your profits) and count your employees before they'll reach out to you. Sometimes, like the No. 5 Hot 100 company, Fortinet Inc., it takes a lot of people (550) to run a business. Other times, like LG&P In-store Agency (No. 42), you can make millions (over 9) with a staff of only 8. How you do it depends on many factors, including your industry, your needs and your style. Small-business size standards were set back in 1953, when the SBA was founded, and haven't officially changed since. As someone who was also "established" around that time, I have seen how much things have changed since then. You don't run your business the way business owners did in 1953, so why should you be measured by those antiquated, pre-technology standards?
Entrepreneurs start small businesses, but they rarely own them for long. Growth is part of your nature. The desire to grow makes you what you are. And that's what the Hot 100 is all about. Not all entrepreneurs are alike. Some of you will get big and grow arrogant (this is not a worthy goal), while others will grow big and be socially responsible. But because you are entrepreneurs, most of you will set goals and exceed them. And whether or not you ever make the Hot 100, that is an accomplishment to be proud of.