All of the companies on Best Small Companies list have had opportunities to get as big as possible, as fast as possible. Growth is good, but the leaders of these companies have had other, non-financial priorities as well, such as being great at what they do, creating great places to work, providing great service to customers, making great contributions to their communities and finding great ways to lead their lives. The wealth they create, though substantial, is a by-product of success in these other areas. To select the companies, we applied the same criteria I used ten years ago when I picked a previous group for my book Small Giants: • The company has been acknowledged as outstanding by those who know the industry best. • It has had the opportunity to grow much faster, but its leaders decided to focus on being great rather than just big. • It has been recognised for its contributions to its community and to society. • It has maintained its financial health for at least ten years by having a sound business model, a strong balance sheet and steady profit margins. • It is privately owned and closely held. • It is human-scale, meaning frontline employees have real interaction with top leaders.
There is one other factor. It’s what I refer to as mojo, the business equivalent of charisma. When a leader has charisma, you want to follow him or her. When a company has mojo, you want to be connected with it. You want to buy from it, sell to it, work for it. As Justice Potter Stewart famously said about pornography, it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.