7 ways to make the Inc. Magazine 500 Fastest Growing Companies list in a down economy like my client did


I’m not really big on self-promotion or self-congratulations — especially here in my column. However, I’m quite pleased to “admit” that one of the companies I work for has made Inc. magazine’s fastest growing companies in America listOpens in a new window.

So, what does it take to make the list? While it’s not Inc.’s criteria, I’ll tell you from my perspective what you and your company need to do to get there.

But before I do, let me tell you a bit about the company in question. The Fresh Diet Opens in a new windowwas founded in 2005 in classic entrepreneurial style — in the kitchen of CEO Zalmi Duchman with Executive Chef Yosef Schwartz . The company creates gourmet meals that are healthy, portion controlled and delicious (Chef Yos is a Cordon BleuOpens in a new window-trained chef). The meals are prepared fresh and hand-delivered to clients’ homes every day.

For this luxury (or is it?), customers dish out about $35 a day (most order a month’s worth of Fresh Diet meals at a time — about $1,100).

So, how can your company follow in The Fresh Diet’s footsteps and makeInc.’s 500 list? Here are seven ways how:

  • Identify products that create fanatics and advocates. It’s easy to go into the meal delivery business and not deliver food daily, or by hand, or buy top-quality meats and produce. But why do that? The Fresh Diet constantly strives to exceed its customers’ expectations.
  • Build a persona around your business and your people. It’s not enough to just be a business these days. With social media and peer recommendations fully in play, companies must put a face to the nameless, faceless corporate entity. Use social media as a way to connect with your customers. But don’t do it as a strategy. Connect in an honest and personal way, in a real voice. For a good example of how The Fresh Diet accomplishes this, check out its Facebook pageOpens in a new window.
  • Take risks, but calculated ones. Develop a mentality of testing — everything from marketing channels to individual campaigns. But also calculate the risks. Test small and do your math up front; big results can potentially be found in tests of all sizes. Even companies that are struggling should test. By making testing part of your culture, the rewards will outweigh the risks.
  • Empower your employees to think and act independently. The days of micromanaging employees are over. Empowered employees are more productive employees. Find great talent, then let them do their thing. OK, so sometimes they won’t do what you thought they should do, but that will be offset by things you never would have thought of.
  • Use all of your channels. I’ve seen too many companies get stuck these days by a specific kind of thinking: online retailers who only market online; direct marketers who fear advertising online; etc. Don’t fall into that trap. The Fresh Diet survives quite nicely in the online and traditional worlds, where it’s tested and rolled out many successful programs.
  • Understand that messaging needs time to develop. Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither should your messaging. Going back to developing a culture of testing, your marketing message falls into a category that should be constantly tested. And even if you hit it big and have “control” messaging that works, always strive to make it better.
  • Handle customer service issues promptly, and look to resolve each issue in the customer’s favor. Know that an upset customer is a brand ambassador waiting to happen once their issue is resolved (which says much for the lack of customer centricity with other brands).
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