The companies in Entrepreneur and PriceWaterhouseCoopers' 11th Annual Hot 100 couldn't be any hotter.

Editor's note: To view the listing, stats on our Hot 100 entrepreneurs, and the methodology, visit our Hot 100 Center. Looking for our online exclusive on 10 ways to grow your business? Click here.

Are America's businesses finally loosening their purse strings after several years of cautious spending? If our 11th Annual Hot 100 listing is any indication, the answer is yes: Companies that provide services to businesses were by far the biggest category in our annual listing of America's fastest-growing new entrepreneurial companies.

What are our Hot 100 businesses' customers spending their money on? Within nontech services to businesses, advertising and marketing was an especially strong category, accounting for 11 companies (three of which provide internet marketing services). Business consulting was a surprisingly prevalent category as well, accounting for eight companies. More predictably, six companies came from the security sector, covering areas from facility security to biosecurity to tech security.

The technology category, which has been fairly strong for the past few years, continued in the same vein, growing from 15 companies last year to 20 this year. But the home-improvement industry, which has been sizzling hot in our listing for the past few years, declined from 19 companies last year to 13 this year.

This year's Hot 100 companies boast $1.5 billion in total sales, a substantial increase from the $795.3 million for last year's companies. They also raised over 10 times as much startup capital as last year's group, making the leap from $62.1 million to an astounding $631.1 million. Our 2005 companies were more likely to have obtained that startup financing from family, friends and private investors than from sources such as credit cards. Continuing a trend from last year, this year's Hot 100 companies have increased many of the benefits they provide to their employees.

These benefits plans prove that our Hot 100 entrepreneurs put their money where their mouths are when it comes to treating employees well. Rewarding your staff is a success secret many of our Hot 100 entrepreneurs swear by. (We've highlighted more of their advice within the listings.) Learn from the wisdom of these fast-growth entrepreneurs, and maybe you, too, will make our Hot 100 list one day.

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This article was originally published in the June 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Smokin'.

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