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  • The Good (and Bad) of Winning an Inc 500 Award

    This year’s list of fastest-growing companies in the U.S. as ranked by Inc magazine was released this week.  Entrepreneurs everywhere are salivating over the successful men and women who’ve led their companies to a spot on this prestigious list in 2011.

    First off, congrats to those individuals and their companies.  It’s a sure sign of a job well done to be honored in Inc.  My friend Brent Beshore, who rang it in at #28 with his company AdVentures, special kudos to you sir.

    But to the same honorees – a word of warning.  You’ve got a big target on your back now.  The Inc list is as much a blueprint for the aspiring as a recognition of the accomplished.  Truly, I think it’s a double-edged sword.

    Let’s look at some of the good, and some of the bad.  As a previous winner and attendee of the Inc 500 conference in D.C., I’ll be pulling from my own experience.

    Getting your company on the Inc 500 list is awesome

    Yes, yes it is.  If you can hit the growth numbers that earn a spot on the Inc 500, you certainly are doing a lot of things right.

    The criterion Inc evaluates is all about revenue growth over a 3 year period.  More often than not, that type of growth is accompanied by growing profits.  You’re making more money, your employees are doing good work, and you’re on the up and up.

    The moment you hit the list you’ve earned a badge of honor that tells the world “we’re legit.”  More than anything, I think the Inc 500 award is a signal of credibility and accomplishment.  It doesn’t change anything about your company – obviously, you could be doing the same growth in revenues and not apply to be on the list.

    Your name on the list does give you that extra signal of credibility and it trickles down to your partners, suppliers, customers, investors, and employees.  People take notice.  Especially if you live in a place like Missouri, where all our companies were based when we won (and where Brent’s AdVentures is based).

    The local community might now know about you when before they hadn’t.  Your phone will ring with inquiries from the press for coverage.  From other business people and companies in town to say “congrats, didn’t know how well you were doing, let’s grab lunch some time.”  Talented people who may never have thought to work for you will send in an application.

    Pretty cool.

    The conference

    Another beneficial piece of winning the Inc 500 is an invite to the conference in D.C.  It’s littered with top-notch speakers (I saw Jim Collins and Tony Hsieh, among others), and every other attendee is someone else who’s making waves in the business world.  You can strike up a conversation with any person in attendance and know it’ll be worthwhile.  It’s truly hard to find that at most conferences.

    You might also get to test some new tech “goodies” like a 4G Android or the newest, hottest tablets.  After all, it’s America’s best and brightest business owners all gathered in one place.  Heck of a target market.

    Members of Inc’s staff are on hand and it can’t hurt to talk to these people about your story.  It can lead to press opportunities in the future.  And hell, they are all cool people who passionately follow entrepreneurship as their living.

    “Hey, look at what this company did”

    Like I said, it can’t be all good.  Personally, my partners and I salivate the day the Inc 500 list comes out because we tear through that thing like a Christmas present.  Why?  It shows what’s working.

    Maybe I’ll find out about some new lead gen niche we can go after.  Or I notice how a top company is doing their online marketing, and copy the tactics.  Before we got into surety bonds, we used the fact that there were internet-based bond agencies on the Inc 500 list as a sign of validation.

    It’s no wonder that a lot of people I know and meet tell me they avoid submitting their company for the Inc 500.  We’ve pulled out numerous times in order to avoid attention too.  Because while all the benefits I listed above are nice to get, most of them aren’t direct contributors to your bottom line.  A new competitor might very well be.

    So with all that said, let’s raise a glass to this year’s winners . . . and take a few hours to dig through that list for ideas.


    Nathaniel Broughton is a veteran internet entrepreneur and investor.  Dating to 2002, he has helped produce 3 Inc 500 award-winning companies.  Nathaniel owns Growth Partner Capital, a venture fund that provides SEO consulting, premium link building and online reputation management services.  He is also owner of SuretyBonds.com, a nationwide bonding agency.   Previously he served as CMO of VAMortgageCenter.com, a $65 million nationwide mortgage bank which acquired his marketing firm Plus1 Marketing in 2008.   A resident of San Diego, Nathaniel often writes from his experience as an investor, marketer, and advocate of “networking like Paris Hilton parties – Nonstop”.  Follow him on Twitter – @natebro.

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