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By the Numbers Use our exclusive Business Performance Dashboard to find out how your company compares to others in your industry

By Carol Tice Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

"How am I doing?" It's the question that nags at every entrepreneur. Are your sales really what they should be? Is your business growing fast enough? In short: How do you measure up?

Now you can find out with Entrepreneur's exclusive Business Performance Dashboard. Think of our Dashboard as a kind of "salary survey" for entrepreneurs--one that lets you compare your company to others of similar size and age in your industry.

Our Business Performance Dashboard was developed with the help of CentrisPoint, a research organization. Entrepreneur and CentrisPoint used CentrisPoint's database of nearly 20 million U.S. companies to find average sales for businesses in dozens of industries. We've highlighted 14 of those industries, from apparel to technology.

In addition to basic data, such as the total number of businesses in your industry and their average sales and efficiency (a measure of the revenue produced per employee per year), you can also find specifics such as the average sales, growth and efficiency of businesses the same size or age as yours. We've highlighted the sales and efficiency of Top Performers--the companies with the greatest sales growth between 2002 and 2007--so you can see how your company compares to the fastest-growing businesses in your industry. And we've spotlighted four Top Performers so you can learn from their advice.

Top Performer Spotlight
Sean Belnick, 21, was just 14 when he tapped the furniture industry expertise of his stepfather, Gary Glazer, 53, to start office furniture company Bizchair.com in 2001. While many a dotcom from that era has gone bust, Canton, Georgia-based Bizchair's 2007 sales topped $40 million.

How did this Emory University business major become a Top Performer? He says he initially won customers over with a then-rare free shipping offer. And when competitors jumped into his category, he switched from using a drop-ship business model to stocking large quantities of his most popular items in his own warehouse, making it harder for upstarts to match his speed and prices.

Belnick also talked to customers and realized that there were other types of furniture Bizchair could sell. The site now offers a wide range of office furniture, as well as medical equipment and school furnishings. "We find needs our customers have and address them," he says. "Our success stems from not becoming complacent."

Belnick works hard on employee morale, too--in particular striving to keep line workers' jobs from becoming simply boring warehouse work. Efforts include a holiday office-decorating contest with $150 prizes and a kickball tournament that pits warehouse employees against the customer service department. "The biggest thing for us," he says, "is having motivated employees."

Top Performer Spotlight
Omnitech Systems
Early experience with the internet helped Suresh Kalyanaraman, 38, build Omnitech Systems, his 7-year-old software development and consulting company, into a $55 million powerhouse. For Kalyanaraman, making Omnitech a Top Performer was a priority from Day One.

After doing consulting work in the late 1990s for companies like eTrade, Kalyanaraman struck out on his own in 1999, focusing on financial-services customers. When those customers began asking for more help, he broadened Omnitech's services to include specialized finance-industry accounting and compliance issues. The Vienna, Virginia, company hired CPAs and other professionals to round out its knowledge. "We're more like a full-service professional firm now," he says.

That paid off when mortgage giant Fannie Mae needed to restate nearly four years of its earnings in 2005. Omnitech landed a major consulting job working with Fannie Mae's accounting software during the process.

Top Performer Spotlight
Ker's WingHouse Bar & Grill
Former NFL offensive lineman Crawford Ker, 45, gives his restaurant chain, Ker's WingHouse Bar & Grill, the same hard-charging commitment he once displayed on the gridiron. The score so far? This $60 million Largo, Florida-based chain has grown to 22 units in Florida and Dallas since opening in 1994.

For Ker, becoming a Top Performer stems from the do-or-die attitude he's had ever since he started the business. Since he knew his former career was over, "I didn't have other options. I had to make it work," he says. So when his third restaurant went over budget on construction, he retrenched. When Hooters sued over Wing-House's similarly revealing waitress uniforms in 2004, he fought back--and won.

And as Ker points out, his football experience has helped him develop his staff: "You check and coach and train. I break things down to small details, just like my coaches did."

Top Performer Spotlight
Sweet Pea
Stacy Frati, 43, and husband Mario, 46, had been in the apparel business together for years without making it big. But when Stacy fashioned tops and dresses from edgy 100 percent nylon mesh, she created an instant fashion sensation. Now a Top Performer, the 8-year-old company, Sweet Pea, had sales of more than $30 million in 2007.

The couple achieved success by working their industry contacts. It wasn't long before Sweet Pea tops and dresses were being sold in Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom for $78 and up. Another secret to their success: While most designer brands introduce around four collections each year, Miami-based Sweet Pea offers buyers a new set of colors, patterns and styles monthly, keeping its merchandise fresh.

Stacy says that nylon-mesh attire has turned out to be more than a fad, as it offers a versatile day-to-evening look. "We found something nobody else was doing," she says. "We still don't really have any competition."

Know Where You Stand
For even more information on your industry--and your competitors--check out these 5 websites.

Benchmarking helps you compare your business to other businesses that are similar to yours and can highlight areas where you excel or need improvement. The business information specialists at the James J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul, Minnesota--one of the nation's most comprehensive business libraries--have named the five sites below as the best free online resources for benchmarking your business. To find more free business research tools, visit biztoolkit.org.

  • BizStats.com: Financial ratios, balance sheets and income/expense reports organized by broad industry heading
  • Caps Benchmarking Reports: Highly detailed reports on select industries
  • Fintel Scorecard: Detailed ratio reports specific to a company's industry, size and finances
  • IRS: Data from corporation income tax returns, organized by broad industry heading
  • ValuationResources.com: Free and for-sale financial ratio reports and industry analyses.

Carol Tice

Owner of Make a Living Writing

Longtime Seattle business writer Carol Tice has written for Entrepreneur, Forbes, Delta Sky and many more. She writes the award-winning Make a Living Writing blog. Her new ebook for Oberlo is Crowdfunding for Entrepreneurs.

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