Most business owners have something they aspire to, a prize, an achievement of sorts that marks a milestone in their professional life. For me, one of those has always been the Inc. 5000. This list of America’s fastest-growing privately owned companies is more than a list of businesses that are doing well. To be on The List is to be recognized as a company committed to growth — which in turn translates into a company committed to creating jobs and adding value to society.
WordSouth, the company my wife and I launched in 1996 from a spare bedroom on one contract and a prayer (with two young kids in tow, no less), went through years of finding itself, building on great service to our clients but lacking a strong structure beyond “Stephen and his support staff.” When we began to mature as an organization through systems and processes, our growth increased. But our revenue didn’t yet qualify us for The List. After we met the threshold, we had a lot of growing to do to find ourselves among America’s high-growth companies.
The timing was right in early 2020 when the Inc. 5000 application process opened up. The measure would be for growth over the previous three-year span. I reviewed past winners and past lists, and I felt like we had a shot.
With a touch of irony, we were notified that we made The List only a few days after we finalized the sale of our company to a strategic acquirer. As with any sale of a business, we were not certain the deal would happen until the ink hit the paper (digitally speaking, of course). But there we were, looking at the news that WordSouth made the Inc. 5000 list — and knowing this was the last time we’d be eligible because we were no longer a privately held company.
Making The List caused me to do a lot of reflecting, and I shared my thoughts in a number of posts on WordSouth’s website. Maybe they will spark some reflection among other business owners, too, about why you do what you do, who helped you get there, and what impact you are having on the world.