Friday, October 28, 2011


Last month, we published the thirteenth edition of the Wales Fast Growth 50 (FG50) supplement, which is the only list of the fastest growing firms in Wales.

There is also a UK-based list - the Virgin Fast Track 100 - that is one year older and is published in the Sunday Times. However, it  rarely features Welsh-based companies, with the vast majority being found in the South East of England.

Funnily enough, having seen the Inc 500 list in the USA, I had thought of developing a national list for Ireland back in 1996 when I was working at the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business in Dublin but left before I got round to it.

After I had come back to Wales to take up a chair in entrepreneurship at the University of Glamorgan, Dr Hamish Stevenson had already established the Virgin Fast Track 100 as the UK equivalent in 1997. So, I decided to concentrate on developing a list to focus attention on the growing impact of entrepreneurial firms in Wales.

So is there a difference in the methodology used to identify growth companies in the Fast Growth 50 as compared to the Virgin Fast Track 100?

In both competitions, companies are:
  • identified either by research (through business information databases) or nomination (the latter is used because an increasing number of companies do not divulge their turnover in their annual accounts published in Companies House)
  • ranked by their compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and confirmed by their latest audited accounts
  • have year on year sales growth sales of at least £250,000 in the base year 
However, the Virgin 100:
  • ranks companies over three years – FG50 decided to do it over two years in 1999 to identify those that were growing quickly over a shorter period of time 
  • enables companies to have two base years – we stick to one base year
  • only lists companies with sales of at least £5m and ten or more employees in the latest year – in Wales, that would exclude a high number of growth firms with real potential 
  • excludes companies with sales of over £500m – FG50 did restrict the list to SMEs only for a decade but has opened it up to larger firms because of the potential impact they could have on the economy
  • only lists companies that are profit-making in the latest year – we do collect this data but do not make it a condition 
Of course, as with any lists with arbitrary definitions, there will be differences in the companies identified. Over the last few years, the tendency has been for the Wales Fast Growth 50 to identify more Welsh companies than the Fast Track 100, probably because of the localised research that we undertake with key stakeholders such as accountants, banks and law firms.

As mentioned earlier, the main similarity is that both lists are modelled on the Inc. 500 in the USA. More importantly, the focus is on giving attention to home-based entrepreneurs, something that the Fast Growth 50 and the Fast Track 100 have done successfully since the late 1990s.

The next Virgin Fast Track 100 is published on December 4th 2011 in the Sunday Times.