Through surveys and available data, we've examined hundreds of small businesses and come away with six archetypal sets of practices and characteristics that we believe are representative of most growth companies operating today.

The qualifications were simple: Companies had to be domestically owned, privately held, for-profit and have shown net capacity growth over at least two years, with an employee size in 2015 of 10 to 1,000.

Below, we examine the traits of Forward Thinkers, one of the six archetypes of the Entrepreneur360™ Performance Index. To see the other five archetypes, click here.

Forward Thinkers surge ahead in growth and profits by being aggressive in adopting new technologies and processes, setting high targets and expanding proactively. While that high growth rate isn’t easily financed without outside funding, the Forward Thinkers seem to have little problem finding investors -- which may explain why they have unusually influential boards of directors.

Key characteristics

  • Forward Thinkers tend to be in mature industries.
  • They lead the Entrepreneur360™ in being driven by new production technologies and processes.
  • They set the highest average annual growth targets among Entrepreneur 360™ companies.
  • They expand proactively.
  • They are more likely than their peers to prioritize input from their boards of directors.
  • Their focus tends to be more international than local.

Takeaway

It’s no surprise that technological and process innovation can rocket a company to success, particularly in mature industries that may have become sleepy. But fast, innovation-fueled growth also calls for extra attention on company components that may become stressed by the pace of change. What’s more, managers at cutting-edge firms need to be prepared to deal with what may be conflicting direction from outside investors and other stakeholders.

Avant

Founded: 2012

Business Type: Financial services

Website: https://www.avant.com

Baird Group

Founded: 1991

Business Type: Healthcare

Website: http://baird-group.com

Bloomery Plantation Distillery

Founded: 2011

Business Type: Beverage

Website: http://bloomerysweetshine.com

Bottlenose

Founded: 2010

Business Type: Analytics

Website: https://bottlenose.com

Camgian Microsystems

Founded: 2006

Business Type: IT hardware/Software developer

Website: http://www.camgian.com

CommunicateHealth

Founded: 2009

Business Type: Healthcare

Website: http://communicatehealth.com

Dimagi

Founded: 2002

Business Type: IT products

Website: http://www.dimagi.com

DocuTAP

Founded: 2000

Business Type: Healthcare

Website: http://docutap.com

GetVoIP

Founded: 2012

Business Type: Communication

Website: http://getvoip.com

GSM Nation

Founded: 2010

Business Type: Retailer

Website: http://www.gsmnation.com

Herschman Architects

Founded: 1974

Business Type: Architectural/Engineering

Website: http://www.herschmanarchitects.com

iControl Universal Collaboration Solution

Founded: 2003

Business Type: SaaS technology

Website: www.icucsolutions.com

Jackrabbit Technologies

Founded: 2004

Business Type: Software

Website: https://www.jackrabbittech.com

LCDcycle

Founded: 2010

Business Type: Reseller

Website: http://www.lcdcycle.com

Lemonly

Founded: 2011

Business Type: Infographics

Website: http://lemonly.com

Local Eye Site

Founded: 2007

Business Type: Staffing

Website: https://localeyesite.com

MeritHall

Founded: 2011

Business Type: Resource management

Website: http://merithall.com

MN8 Foxfire

Founded: 2010

Business Type: Manufacturing

Website: http://www.mn8foxfire.com

Mobius Consulting

Founded: 2011

Business Type: Engineering

Website: http://mobius-llc.com

Param Software Corporation

Founded: 2006

Business Type: Staffing

Website: http://param-solutions.com

PEDEGO ELECTRIC BIKES

Founded: 2009

Business Type: Manufacturing

Website: https://www.pedegoelectricbikes.com

proof eyewear

Founded: 2010

Business Type: Manufacturing

Website: http://www.iwantproof.com

Raizana Tea Co.

Founded: 2009

Business Type: Food

Website: http://raizana.com

SeaSnax

Founded: 2010

Business Type: Food

Website: http://www.seasnax.com

Signature Party Rentals

Founded: 1986

Business Type: Rentals

Website: http://www.signatureparty.com

SoapBox Soaps

Founded: 2010

Business Type: Manufacturing

Website: https://www.soapboxsoaps.com

Stamford Innovation Center

Founded: 2012

Business Type: Incubator/Co-working space

Website: http://www.stamfordicenter.com

Syndio

Founded: 2009

Business Type: HR software/Analytics

Website: https://synd.io

The SALUS Group, Inc.

Founded: 2005

Business Type: Healthcare

Website: http://www.thesalusgroup.com

ThunderCat Technology

Founded: 2008

Business Type: IT products

Website: http://www.thundercattech.com

Trepoint

Founded: 2011

Business Type: Branding

Website: http://www.trepoint.com

Read more about each archetype:

For Entrepreneur360 'Data Champions,' Success is Steady, Plotted and Planned

What Entrepreneur360 'Controllers' Know: Watch Markets and Keep the Customer Happy

The Success Secrets That Helped the 'Best Practicers' Land on the Entrepreneur360

Growing Against the Grain: Meet the Entrepreneur360 'Contrarians'

Confident and Sales-Focused: A Look at the Entrepreneur360 'Classics'