By Dennis Robaugh and Emily Stone
The Inc. 5000 list of 2013's fastest growing companies includes 261 Illinois businesses employing more than 93,000 people. An eclectic array of industries made the list, from a media company for photographer moms and a suburban restaurant and winery chain to traditional insurance companies and construction firms. And North Shore and North Suburban companies were well represented on the list.
One might think that Chicago-based firms would dominate the list — and 91 of the businesses call the city of broad shoulders home — but more than half are in the suburbs, with 19 in towns far downstate or well outside the metro area. The suburb with the most firms on the Inc. 5000 list is Schaumburg, with 13, followed by Oak Brook with 10 and Naperville with eight.
In the last three years, 22 of the companies experienced a growth rate over 1,000 percent.
Management author Hermann Simon calls companies like these hidden champions, because they deliver outstanding performance while operating "in the 'hinterland' of the value chain, supplying machinery, components, or processes that are no longer discernible in the final product or service." As such, they are the sinews of our economic physiology. But jobs are also created by the thousands of organizations that constitute the Inc. 5000's customers. ...
The National Center for the Middle Market describes companies such as those on the Inc. 5000 as "model links" in corporate supply chains. ... These businesses make and keep American companies competitive: Within their niches, they are as innovative and service oriented as the most beloved household names. But rather than strategize to build brands, they earn reputations simply by virtue of how well they do what they do. They grow reference by reference until every customer in their markets knows whom to call."
Seventeen companies in and near the North Shore made the list this year.
- No. 132: Buy Happier in Morton Grove, with 32 employees and $20.6 million in revenue “offers shopping channels for items like home goods, vacuum cleaners, and kitchenware online.”
- No. 167: BayRu in Morton Grove, with 120 employees and $19.5 million in revenue, “operates a cross-border shopping site that sells products from the United States to consumers in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.“
- No. 923: L2TMedia in Evanston, with 37 employees and $16.3 million in revenue, “offers a suite of digital products that meet the changing needs of auto dealerships. Based in the media and retail automotive worlds, it provides its clients with performance-based marketing “
- No. 1561: Acquirent in Evanston, with 77 employees and $4.7 million in revenue, “provides outsourced sales for midsize companies as well as major corporations. It hires, trains, and manages sales teams.”
- No. 1822: BigMachines in Deerfield, with 354 employees and $58 million in revenue, “provides innovative software-as-a-service options for sales configuration, quoting, B2B eCommerce, and proposal generation. Clients include tech, health care, media and financial services.”
- No. 2125: Converged Communication Systems in Evanston, with 46 employees and $7 million in revenue, “provides nationwide telephone and other telecommunication services to small through large businesses. Offers support and maintenance services for data and telephone equipment.”
- No. 2259: Evanston Group in Evanston, with 24 employees and $14.3 million in revenue, “provides highly specialized professionals for interim placement on clients' business critical projects.”
- No. 2566: Revolution Dancewear in Niles, with 90 employees and $37.2 million in revenue, “designs and manufactures dancewear and recital costumes and sells exclusively to dance studios and schools across the U.S. and Canada.”
- No. 3191: Ulta-Lit Technologies in Glenview, with 7 employees and $5.8 million in revenue, “distributes the LightKeeper Pro for Christmas tree lights. The LightKeeper Pro sends an electrical pulse through the defective bulb, clearing it and allowing the current to flow through and illuminate the other bulbs in the string.”
- No. 3363: OpticsPlanet in Glenview, with 282 employees and $125.9 million in revenue, “sells a wide selection of optical products such as microscopes, binoculars and GPS equipment, for the scientific, military and consumer markets.”
- No. 3437: Intetics in Wilmette, with 418 employees and $12.6 million in revenue, “creates and operates remote IT business units for application development, systems integration, data processing and back office support.”
- No. 3602: OpinionLab in Highland Park, with 75 employees and $12.3 million in revenue, “develops "voice of customer" (VoC) technology that allows businesses to collect instant feedback from their customers.”
- No. 3854: North Shore Pediatric Therapy in Glenview, with 85 employees and $5.4 million in revenue, “provides multidisciplinary pediatric therapy and outpatient health care services in Northern Chicago.“
- No. 3949: Celergo in Deerfield, with 101 employees and $18.9 million in revenue, “provides outsourced, consolidated international payroll and HR services in over 110 countries.”
- No. 4159: SmartPrice Sales in Northbrook, with 7 employees and $11 million in revenue, “Designs and works with manufacturers to produce discount perishable and nonperishable food items for sale in dollar stores. Its labels include SmartPrice, TrailBoss and Twin Star.“
- No. 4164: BCDVideo in Northbrook, with 26 employees and $28.9 million in revenue, “Provides IP security storage and intelligent building network services.”
- No. 4911: The MBA Exchange in Highland Park, with 3 employees and $2.1 million in revenue, “Provides assessment, guidance, preparation, and coaching for applicants to business schools.”