The 2016 PROFIT 500 are awesomesauce. Want proof? The companies on this year’s list grew sales by an average of 686% over the past five years. (Or had a median growth rate of 219%, for you nerds). It’s pretty impressive, considering that over the same period, Canada’s GDP shrunk by close to 4%.
Some winners got here by selling really cool stuff, like deluxe knives (Knifewear, No. 123), family-friendly video games (Big Blue Bubble, No. 131) and ultralight wheelchairs (Motion Composites, No. 91). Far more trade in less glam—but equally lucrative—fields: 44% of companies on the ranking provide services to other businesses.
All told, the 2016 PROFIT 500 contributed $13.9 billion to the Canadian economy last year. That’s higher than the individual GDPs of 75 countries, and it averages out to $27.8 million in annual sales per company, though that figure is skewed by a few giants at the high end of the curve: More than half of PROFIT 500 firms had sales of less than $10 million last year.
As businesses, they’re generally pretty young: 30% are less than 10 years old; 69% didn’t exist at Y2K. The oldest company on the list—Campbell Bros. Movers (No. 493)—started in 1894 as a horse-and-buggy hauling outfit. (The fifth generation of Campbell family members is now working for the business).
Fully 62% of PROFIT 500 firms export goods or services. In 2015, they sold $4.6 billion to foreign buyers. The most popular export market: the U.S., with 96% of PROFIT 500 exporters selling south of the border. The next most popular? The U.K., with 43%. And 16 winners report having clients in every major export market.
They’re a largely self-financed lot: 71% of PROFIT 500 companies used the founder’s own capital to grow the business in the past five years; 13% went cap-in-hand to friends and family (thanks, Mom!); and 59% borrowed from a Canadian chartered bank. Here’s a hype buster: Only 1 PROFIT 500 firm claimed to use crowdfunding.
You want jobs? PROFIT 500 companies created 30,180 new full-time equivalent positions from 2010 to 2015. That works out to an average of 12 new hires per year for each company—or one a month; 10 firms hired at least two new people every week over the past five years (let’s hope their HR managers got raises).
Several winners approached—and impressed—high-profile financiers: All 9 PROFIT 500 winners who mentioned appearances on CBC’s Dragons’ Den were offered deals; 3 went on to turn the cash down after due diligence. Said one happily financed entrepreneur: “It gave us a significant boost. I can validate the Dragons’ Den effect!”
Who’s running these firms? Well, it’s mostly dudes: Only 19% of PROFIT 500 chief executives are women. Silver lining? That’s the highest share in the 28-year history of the ranking. The CEOs skew young(ish): 70% are under 50. Some are really young: 5% were born after 1984, the year PROFIT 500 alumnus BlackBerry launched.
As entrepreneurs, they’re not new at this game: 67% of the founders on the list have started two or more businesses, and 7 industrious individuals claim to have launched at least 10 ventures each. Education-wise, 25% hold graduate degrees, 43% finished their undergrad, 15% have college diplomas and 17% are school-of-lifers.
There are benefits to being your own boss: The average PROFIT 500 CEO took home $301,937 in total compensation last year. To earn that, each one works about 54 hours a week—2 workaholics claim to log 100 hours a week on the job, while 1 master delegator only works 10. Roughly calculated, their average hourly rate works out to $107—10 times Canada’s minimum wage.
Which titans of industry inspire these ambitious entrepreneurs? Many winners cited a parent as a role model, along with usual suspects Steve Jobs (“innovative, resilient, confident”), Elon Musk (“he’s a disrupter”) and Richard Branson (“really decent guy achieves outrageous success? I like that story”).
Other winners had more creative business heroes, including Eminem, Howard Stern (“he succeeded by being fearless and innovative”), Ayn Rand, Tom Waits (“he built a brand by being different”), Dr. Seuss and—yes—Donald Trump. One refreshingly candid winner put no stock in idolatry: “Who inspires me? No one really, except myself.”