Three Illinois businesses were named among Forbes’ list of America’s best small companies.
The top 25 list is the second annual ranking from the publication involving “small giants.”
Two suburban companies and one Chicago business made the list. They include Fusion OEM in Burr Ridge, Nick’s Pizza and Pub in Crystal Lake and Basecamp in Chicago.
Forbes said the list included businesses “that have sound models, strong balance sheets and steady profits—all privately owned and closely held.”
“They have been acknowledged as outstanding by others in their field. And they do things any business can learn from,” the report states.
Contract manufacturer Fusion OEM and founder Craig Zoberis were listed for doing all their manufacturing at their plant outside Chicago and paying employees “above-market rates,” with workers starting at $14 an hour.
Nick’s Pizza and Pub and owner Nick Sarillo were named for their connection to the northwest suburban community they began in and the “vibrant culture” built by a managing style called “trust-and-track,” as opposed to command-and-control.
The ranking notes that Sarillo, a former construction worker, was naïve about the finance side of business and took on too much debt over the years, but his connection to the community was so strong, his customers ultimately saved the business.
“[Sarillo] was running out of cash and three weeks from bankruptcy in 2011. With all other options exhausted, he wrote an email to customers explaining the situation, taking full blame for it, and asking for help,” the report states. "The customers rallied and literally saved the company. Sales almost doubled for the next two months. Some even called the bank, urging it to help Sarillo find a solution.”
Basecamp, a Chicago-based IT software and services company, was noted for maintaining its small business status despite the potential for the company to grow at an increasing rate.
It claims Owner Jason Fried turned down investment offers over the years in an effort to preserve growth of at least 5 percent a year to “enjoy the culture of a small business.”
“Among those joys are employee benefits that include a 30-day sabbatical every three years, subsidies for hobbies outside of work and paid family vacations,” Forbes reports.