By Nichole L. Torres
Exceeding expectations is Amy Langer's business. When she and partner John Folkestad, 40, first wrote the business plan for Salo LLC, a senior-level finance and accounting staffing company, they anticipated sales of about $9 million by their third year in business—no small feat. "Most of our advisors [told us], ‘These projections are unreal. No small business does this,'" recalls Langer, 35. "We hit $9 million after two years."
Through her background in staffing, Langer discovered a need in the marketplace to supply companies with top accounting and finance talent. Meeting that need triggered explosive growth for Salo, which launched in 2002. By 2006, sales hit $32.1 million, with 2007 projections of over $40 million. Attracting top-notch talent for outside contractors and her own staff is key to managing the company's astronomical growth, she says. Langer surrounds herself with people who are not only exceptional at what they do, but who also complement her skill set and help take the company to the next level. "I know where I'm strong, and I know where I definitely need people to help me," she says.
As the mother of three small children, Langer faces a big challenge that many working women do: balancing an entrepreneurial life with a life at home. "Wanting to be everywhere has been and always [will] be a challenge," she says. Knowing where to put her focus and how to delegate her time has helped her juggle all her responsibilities. She adds, "If I'm required to be in the office 80 hours a week or else the business can't run, then the business isn't sustainable."
Still, there's no resting on laurels for this Minneapolis entrepreneur, who plans to expand her company into other niches within professional staffing. In fact, Salo has already opened two other companies under its umbrella: Oberon, which focuses on HR placement, and Number Works, which focuses on junior-level accounting and finance staffing.
As she continues to move forward, Langer makes sure to keep her eye on the big picture when it comes to the future of her company and suggests other women entrepreneurs do the same. "Having a vision [and] really working on our business vs. working in it has made quite a difference," she says. "Ask, 'Where are you really needed?'"
Behind the Numbers
The 50 fastest-growing women-led companies ranking was compiled with the help of the Women Presidents' Organization, a nonprofit peer advisory organization for independent women presidents and CEOs. Entrepreneur and the WPO solicited applications from women-led businesses in North America and considered those that met the following criteria:
- Must be a privately held, woman-led company in the U.S. or Canada.
- Company sales in 2002 must be $50,000 or greater; 2006 sales must be at least $1 million.
Companies were ranked according to a sales growth formula that combines percentage and absolute growth. From this list, the top 50 were selected. (In cases where companies have multiple partners only women are listed.)
Research was conducted by WPO director of communications Caitlin Jenkins and communications assistants Keri Smyth and Tanya Rosado. Entrepreneur editorial assistant Celeste Hoang also contributed to this listing.
Click here for a slideshow of the top 50 fastest-growing-women-led businesses and profile of Amy Langer, the entrepreneur whose business ranked No. 1.
1. Salo LLC
Senior-level finance/accounting staffing, Minneapolis
Initial Investment: $100,000
2002 sales: $55,000
2006 sales: $32.1 million
"By hiring the right management team and building a strong infrastructure, I can focus on the longer-term strategic aspects of growing our business."
"I feel very strongly that it is essential to create a clear vision for our business and to hire great people to help execute. This allows the founder to successfully work 'on' the business rather than 'in' it."