James Burgess, Focus31, Growing BusinessYou might assume it far easier to just declare bankruptcy in advance than starting and growing a business, on the cusp of a massive global recession. And in most cases, your assumption would be correct.

Most, that is, not all.

The October issue of Profit Magazine, due to hit newsstands tomorrow, provides a glimpse of 50 resilient Canadian firms founded since 2006 that have somehow managed to grow against the strain.

Topping the chart is Great Circle Works Inc., maker of toys and sporting goods. The Oakville based company made less than $50 000 in 2007. By the end of the 2009 fiscal year, the company netted more than $1.18-million in revenues – making for a 2,227% increase in revenues.

To put that figure in perspective, consider that Apple Inc. increased its own annual revenues by 57% during the same time span, causing it to supplant Microsoft Corp. as the World’s Most Valuable Technology Company; a title which Microsoft had held for several years.

While it is generally much easier to scale up as a small firm than as an internationally recognized brand, that the top eight companies on Profit’s list increased earnings by more than 1,000% is nonetheless remarkable.Still, they are all extremely small. Save for Toronto’s VersaPay Corp. which had 53 employees in 2009, all others that made the top 8 did so with fewer than 25 people on the payroll.

Also interesting to note the number of technology companies higher up on the list. Nearly 20% of the Top 50 (8 to be precise) identified as being in the ‘software development’ sector. Toronto’s Syncapse Corp. is perhaps that sector’s most dramatic success story.

The company develops software that helps businesses conduct social media-based marketing campaigns. It went from a 10-person startup making just over US$1-million per year in 2007, to a medium-sized business with 130 employees and more than US$9-million in yearly earnings by 2009.

All 50 seem to share a few common qualities. More than 90% (46 to be exact) had under 100 employees last year and every last one of them sported a fairly flashy website regardless of whether their business was about software design or construction.

So the lesson to Canadians who want to grow a business is clear: stay mean, stay lean and make sure there is a professional website attached to your business.


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