First, the ground rules: We're looking for independent companies that have employees, but preferably no more than 100. We want businesses that are willing to share some financial information. We don't cover franchisees or nonprofits.
Often we're looking for entrepreneurs that have had a particular experience. In this issue, for instance, we looked for companies that had punched up their brands, improved their cash flow, or fended off counterfeiters.
Still, that doesn't narrow the pool all that much. So which companies make the cut? Those with a good story. A local outfit with national aspirations and a plan to realize them. An entrepreneur who has overcome unusual obstacles, beaten the odds, or put up a markedly interesting fight trying. A company that does business with an enthusiasm, grit, and agility that's hard to come by in big corporations. I'm sure you know just the sort of company we mean -- yours. Kimberly Weisul, Editor, BusinessWeek SmallBiz