As one year ends and another begins, it is wise to take stock in many facets of our lives. What are we doing well ◊  What could we improve  ◊  Are we where we want to be, or doing what we need to do to get there ◊  In business, it serves us to ask these questions year-round. To look around, and emulate practices and principles that would prove beneficial to us.

This year I was drawn to Forbes list of what they call “The Best Small Companies in America, 2016.” The magazine comprises a list of what they believe to be the best small businesses in the country, based on the following criteria:

  • The company has been acknowledged as outstanding by those who know the industry best
  • It has had the opportunity to grow much faster, but its leaders decided to focus on being great rather than just big
  • It has been recognized for its contributions to its community and society
  • It has maintained its financial health for at least ten years by having a sound business model, a strong balance sheet and steady profit margins.
  • It is privately owned and closely held
  • It is human-scale, meaning frontline employees have real interaction with top leaders

While the criteria maintains the monetary and corporate standards you might expect from Forbes; the list also points to there being more than meets the eye in the nuances of building a successful small business. The article makes a point about mojo, or what they call “the business equivalent of charisma.” The following companies range in revenue, industry, span the four corners of the country, and are definitely worth checking out.

  1. Quality Bicycle Products: Bloomington, Minnesota
  2. Gainesville Health and Fitness: Gainesville, Florida
  3. Tasty Catering: Elk Grove Village, Illinois
  4. Big Ass Fans: Lexington, Kentucky
  5. Afterburner: Atlanta, Georgia
  6. Blink UX: Seattle, Washington
  7. Service Express Inc: Grand Rapids, Michigan
  8. Redmond: Herber City, Utah
  9. ENT Institute: Atlanta, Georgia
  10. New Belgium Brewing: Fort Collins, Colorado
  11. Cue Ball Group: Boston, Massachusetts
  12. Abt Electronics: Chicago, Illinois
  13. Balsam Brands: Redwood City, California
  14. Askinosie Chocolate: Springfield, Missouri
  15. Fresno First Bank: Fresno, California
  16. Atlanta, Georgia
  17. Radio Flyer: Chicago, Illinois
  18. McRoskey Mattress: San Francisco, California
  19. Torch Techonoligies: Huntsville, Alabama
  20. Integrated Project Management: Burr Ridge, Illinois
  21. Bi-Rite Market: San Francisco, California
  22. Air Force One: Columbus, Ohio
  23. Innotec: Zeeland, Michigan
  24. West Paw Design: Bozeman, Montana

In researching the companies chosen by Forbes I noticed two things. First, that I was drawn to them in some way. The companies were captivating, regardless of industry. Second, their leadership. Charismatic, “mojo”-filled, relatable people at the helm of these empires, drawing me to them.

So what can you do to make it on this list by the end of 2017 in place of bribery? There are countless marketing strategies you may or may not be familiar with. But in reading about these particular companies, here are a few things to think about:

  • Social Capital: How is your company perceived by the public? How are you perceived? How will your customers look if they use your brand?
  • Emotion: Are you reaching people in ways that are likely to move them?
  • Prompts: How easily and how often are people reminded of your company?
  • Stories: Every company on Forbes’ has a great story. Every successful company has a great story. A person’s rise to success is always interesting. So take advantage of that. Discover what’s interesting about your story. About your employees, or your process, or your relationship to your location. Find your mojo.

As marketers and research professionals I believe this raises some interesting challenges and new areas for measurement of corporate competitiveness and what makes companies great. I urge you to think about what makes your company great. To look beyond financial priority and invest in insight, integrity, and innovation.