Consider the word BUILD. It’s perhaps the most common verb in entrepreneurship—she built a business; he is building a business. But the word isn’t fair. You know what gets built? A building. The foundation is laid, the first floor is constructed, and then the first floor is forevermore the first floor: always solid, never changing, the foundation upon which a second floor and more can rise. Built.
Nothing about a business is like this. “What successful companies—for example, Amazon—do is to constantly search for something better for customers,” says Jeffrey A. Carr, a professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “It’s this never-ending betterment that has to happen.” And that betterment can’t happen all at once. A business is a collection of parts: revenue, marketing, sales, staffing, and so on. A founder may be better at some than others. Some are simply harder than others. But to be a well-rounded, 360-degree business, they all must thrive.
That means a business isn’t built, layer by perfected layer. It is grown, like a body. Its parts will change with time, and need constant upkeep. “It’s a continuous learning process,” says Andrew Zacharakis, director of the Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference. “The entrepreneur who tries to roll out everything in one neat package is striving for the impossible.”
We have this crazy idea at Entrepreneur: We want to identify 360 small businesses each year that are mastering that continuous process—that keep all their parts growing in harmony. To do this, we invited companies to apply and evaluated them based on four metrics: impact, innovation, growth, and leadership. The result is our Entrepreneur 360 list. Here, you'll find all 360 companies on the list, as well as insights from five founders who exemplify these metrics.
What should you take from this list? Inspiration, sure. But most important, it is a reminder that nobody is perfect, but any entrepreneur can thrive if they get the balance right. Now comes the hard part for these 360 companies: They have to maintain that balance. After all, they are not built. But they will continue to grow. And so will you.