How to Get on the Inc. 5000

how to get on the inc 5000

When Edgar P. Smith, former editor of Fortune, thought to compile the world’s 500 most successful companies, rank them by revenue, publish it, and brand the list with the name of his magazine, it was nothing short of genius. “Fortune 500” now serves as an almost deifying descriptor in the business world, a badge worn by the corporate goliaths who sit at the zenith of success.

Inc. Magazine had the equally brilliant idea of taking this very concept and widening access to it. The country’s top 5,000 companies certainly don’t suffer from lack of prestige or pithy revenue, so why not highlight their success in the form of a published list as well? Mass media conglomerates and multinational retailers have their day in the sun on the Fortune 500 list. But for the thousands of wildly successful companies that won’t quite join the ranks of Disney and Walmart, there is the equally important Inc. 5,000.

Those who make the list are afforded national and global recognition, stronger sales momentum, greater credibility with prospects, and the invaluable opportunity to network with fellow companies named to the list.

This year, my company Advantage|ForbesBooks was named to the Inc. 5,000 list for its sixth consecutive year, and I couldn’t be prouder of my team for the work they put in to help us accomplish that. That being said, I’m happy to offer my insight on how you can get your company on the list next year.


Establish eligibility per Inc.’s rules

This is the most basic prong you have to satisfy in order to make it on the list. Inc. has the evaluation criteria published on their site, so there’s no mystery surrounding what they look for. Companies must:

  • Be privately-owned
  • Be based in the United States
  • Be independent (not a subsidiary or division of another company)
  • Have started earning revenue by March 31st, 2014
  • Had revenue no less than $100,000 in 2014
  • Had revenue no less than $2,000,000 in 2017
  • Revenue in 2017 exceeds revenue in 2014


There are certain exceptions to these requirements. Inc. provides a line you can call with any questions you have about eligibility: 212-389-5505. If you’re wondering how to go about submitting your revenue verification, Inc. covers that too:

The quickest way to verify your revenue is to submit a secure electronic version of the Revenue Verification Form through DocuSign. A link to your secure form will be provided immediately after you complete the online application both on the confirmation page and in your confirmation email. If you do not choose to use DocuSign, we prefer that you save your revenue verification documents as PDFs and e-mail them to Please include the name of your company in the subject line. Alternatively, you may fax the documents to 646-365-3235.


How the Inc. 5,000 List is Ranked

Now that we’ve knocked out the basics of how to get on the Inc. 5,000 list, let’s dive into the nuances. Assuming that there are thousands of companies that meet these requirements, how does Inc. rank the companies on the Inc. 5,000 list? That, too, is simple.

The list is ranked in accordance with your percent revenue growth between 2014 to 2017. There’s a simple formula you can use to see where your company might land.


[(Recent Yearly revenue – Base Year revenue) / Base Year revenue] x 100 = total growth percentage

For example, if 2014 revenue was $2 million and 2017 revenue is $14 million:

$14 million – $2 million = $12 million

12,000,000 / 2,000,000 = 6

6 x 100 = 600

Growth rate is 600%.


And there you have it, folks!

There are no smoke and mirrors, no underhanded tricks to making the Inc. 5,000 list. If your revenue figures aren’t up to snuff just yet, your company may not be poised to land a spot this year. There are, however, a handful of smart moves you can make to jump-start your revenue growth and hit the coveted $2,000,000 figure required for eligibility. One such move would be publishing a book in your field. A book serves as the competitive advantage when you’re trying to win over prospects and differentiate yourself from the competition.

Advantage|ForbesBooks is always scouting new business owners to become our next published author. If you have an amazing success story to share, it may be time to tell it. Contact us with your book idea, and we’ll walk you through the next steps to becoming a published business author.

Additionally, public speaking engagements are an excellent way to broadcast your message. Speaking at the right conferences and events puts you face to face with a huge pool of potential clients. It also helps you establish a strong personal brand, which is critical to cultivate, in addition to your corporate brand. As the owner of an Inc. 5,000 company who took these steps myself, I can say with complete certainty that these are the two best techniques I can recommend to help your company achieve hyper-growth.