Swimming Through the Mud

By Joe Sweeney

A salute to those who powered through and emerged from 2020 stronger for it.

I have to hand it to the companies that earned their place on this issue’s 36th annual Corporate Report 100 ranking. If we were to ever find ourselves in a street fight, I’d want these folks on our side. They’re all fighters; they remarkably defied the odds of the 2020 pandemic that claimed so many other enterprises—most of them small businesses.

As I think back to our company meeting on Friday, March 13, 2020, I recall spending a fair portion of that week working with our technical folks to prepare for our team to work from home. We didn’t know at the time what might lie ahead, or how long our main base of operation might be shut down. I won’t lie: It was a challenge to maintain the sense of team spirit we have working as a group, but everyone was on board and understood the challenges we would encounter. I honestly did not know what our future looked like, or whether Ingram’s could sustain a cash crunch that would last 14 months. You’re holding the smallest Corporate Report 100 edition in our history, but I bet it may be one of the most content- and data-packed issues we have ever produced.

Like so many others, our business has been impacted by uncontrollable conditions around us. We’ve tried to innovate, as others have, but the secret sauce we kept cooking was to keep an open line of communications with our valued readers and the business community at large, to encourage leaders to stay focused on their businesses, and to continue to recognize excellence where deserved. This month’s edition of Ingram’s reinforces our mission, and our team is pleased and proud to deliver this year’s Corporate Report 100 issue and share the stories of so many stars that defied the odds, focused forward and continued to adapt, grow and thrive.

There aren’t many books to instruct business and thought leaders on how to navigate the challenges of the sort we’ve seen since early 2020, much less thrive in that climate. I would argue, however, this edition of Ingram’s may fill some of that knowledge gap. I challenge you to read and really study the successes outlined in this issue and to learn from companies that were able to adapt and continue to grow when the odds continued to stack up against them.

When you’re studying the data from hundreds of companies, an occasional nugget will jump out at you. For us, one of those was Kellan Restaurant Management, traditionally one of the 100 largest private companies in the area. It operates as 54th Street Grill, with locations in multiple states.

Few industries were harder-hit by the pandemic than the hospitality sector, and restaurants in particular. But under the leadership of CEO Mike Norsworthy, KRM came within 3 percent of matching its 2019 revenues. I can’t begin to imagine what Michael and his team had to go through to hold the line.

Same goes for Mike Kulp and his crew at KBP Foods, the fast-food conglomerate that was able to nudge its way into the CR100, at No. 93. Neither will get the full recognition they deserve, but they certainly have earned your praise and respect for keeping their organizations alive and positioned to rehire as the economy fully reopens.

Thousands more like them are out there, companies led by men and women who did what they had to do and pulled through. We should all be motivated by their determination.

Consider for a moment that in 2018 the No. 100 company on the Corporate Report 100 grew 101.5 percent over the previous three years, and the performance of that company (Neighborhood Painting) would have ranked in the top half of this year’s class. Last year, No. 100 grew 78 percent, and like CR100 rankings during the years of economic downturn, this year’s No. 100 dropped to a startling 46.9 percent growth when comparing 2017 to 2020.

Mark my words on this projection: In 2024, with basis revenues for 2020 that were so dismal for so many, we may well witness the most incredible growth increases this competition has ever produced. I have my doubts that the top performers this year can pull off repeat performances when their revenues in 2020 were typically so strong, but they’ve proven me wrong before.

The tenacity of firms that claim their position among this region’s fastest-growing companies can generate enough power to light up the nation. Their success is truly inspirational. We’re honored to serve as the steward of the Corporate Report 100, and we greatly appreciate the willingness of so many to submit revenues and help us to produce this unique report.

Prepare to be inspired.


About the author


Joe Sweeney

Editor-In-Chief & Publisher


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