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How to Use the Inc. 500 for Strategic Advantage – 1 August 29, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Dealing With Competitors.
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Every year Inc. magazine (www.inc.com) publishes a list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.  I’m going to put a stake in the ground here and say that it’s probably one of the most valuable databases of information you can find anywhere.  It contains a treasure-trove of information that can provide valuable insights on business strategy and tactics.  Unfortunately, this Inc. special issue probably spends more time on the shelf of most readers before it is quickly sent to the newspaper recycle pile.  For shame.  This is a list of 500 Big Dogz that are in the thick of executing on business strategies that are differentiating them from their baseline competitors. 

First, let’s look at what data is in this Inc. 500 issue.  Inc. has segmented companies in this list into broad but meaningful sectors like media, business services, construction, education, logistics, reatil, transportation, etc.  If you own a business, more than likely you’ll find a sector that covers you business. 

Finding and reviewing your sector is a great place to start with this publication. 

  •  What are some of these high-growth companies in your sector doing strategically and/or tactically to position themselves as high-performers? 
  •  How are they creating differentiation that separates them from the crowd? 
  •  How can you find this kind of information? 

Well, what these Big Dogz are doing is not necessarily going to jump out at you when you review the list.  What they do give you is the CEO’s name and their website address.  At a minimum, it requires a careful and detailed review of their website.  Then, a call to the company if you want to find out more info.  This isn’t as hard as you think.  Most people are far more accessible than most people think.  You’d be surprised how much information you can get if you just pick up the phone and call the CEO directly.  Remember, these aren’t Fortune 500 CEO’s…these are CEO’s who are generally much more accessible.  In most cases, as long as they are not directly competing with you in market, you can usually find someone at the management level who’s willing to brag on their company a bit. 

My point is clear:  these Inc. 500 Big Dogz need to be studied.  Get yourself a copy (if you don’t already have one) while it’s still on the newsstands.  I use mine and keep it well dog-eared as a research tool.   It doesn’t make the recycle pile until the next one comes out.  More on this in my next blog posting.

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