The Common Denominators of Uncommon Success


By Dennis Boone


Sometimes, the most fascinating aspects of the Corporate Report 100 aren’t in the envy-inducing growth figures that determine the rankings, but in the under-lying numbers that got those companies onto this prestigious listing. To wit:


If you really want a sense of the collective vigor of the Kansas City business community, look to the bottom of the annual Corporate Report 100, and track the growth rates of the companies that bring up the rear every year.


  • Twenty-eight companies make their first appearance this year.
  • More than half—51—have yet to make a fourth appearance here.
  • Size doesn’t matter: The largest employer on the list was Seaboard Corp., the pork and poultry products giant with 23,000 employees worldwide; ProForma Promotionally Yours makes the list with a staff of just three.
  • While three can trace their roots to the late 1800s, the vast majority—75 companies—were launched after 1980.
  • Eight companies were born amid or just after the recession that began in 2007.
  • And, perhaps most impressively, No. 1 and No. 3 this year happen to be the newest corporate kids on the block: The Logistics Store and First Mortgage Solutions both debuted in 2009, the baseline year for this year’s calculations.

The common threads for all, of course, were the right vision, the right leadership at the top, and the right people to execute it. In some cases, timing was a success factor—and in some, timing prevented even greater successes. But those two companies shared a particular trait that defined their performance over the past four years: A sense that longstanding business models could be improved with a dash of innovation.

For The Logistics Store, that meant rethinking the approach to framing a customer’s shipping and logistics needs, looking at it from the client’s perspective. For First Mortgage Solutions, it meant applying honesty, integrity and mortgage banking practices, not brokerage services, to residential realty transactions.

Both approaches struck gold, and their numbers reflect it. 

The superstars of growth will always report numbers that, like the sun, can blind you if you stare at them too long. If you really want a sense of the collective vigor of the Kansas City business community, look to the bottom of the annual Corporate Report 100, and track the growth rates of the companies that bring up the rear every year.

In July of 2008, before any of us had heard words like TARP or paused to comprehend 12-figure “stimulus” programs that didn’t stimulate much, No. 100 on Ingram’s CR100 was Heatron, Inc., at 74.49 percent growth from 2004 through 2007. Over the next few years, the No. 1 companies still came in above 1,000 percent—even multiples of it—but at the trailing edge, the figures started to fall precipitously—56.3 percent in 2009, then 20.6 percent in 2010, before bottoming out at 20.06 percent in 2011. 

Last year, the bottom line ticked up to 27.5 percent, and this year it’s up again, to 41.13 percent. So there’s that. A year ago, 29 companies weighed in with growth of at least 100 percent; this year, that number surged to 41.

Overall, the numbers are still not back to the heady days of 2008, but they’re better. And that’s where most of us find ourselves here in 2013—better, but not all the way back. Yet. So let’s knuckle down once again, shall we, for the final half of 2013, and then look for still more evidence of recovery in next year’s Corporate Report 100. Good luck to all in that quest.