Inc.’s Best in Business Application Got You Stumped? Answers to the 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions


First things first: Bookmark the Best in Business application page.

Okay, to recap, Inc.’s Best in Business Awards celebrate companies that made an extraordinary impact over the last year in their field, within their communities, or on society at large. We do some big data-driven programs, such as the Inc. 5000, and we wanted to balance those by also recognizing achievements that don’t necessarily show up on a balance sheet. Though we have a lot of applications in advance of the August 19 early rate deadline–that’s tomorrow–there’s still time to apply. Here are the top five questions we’re getting, along with our answers to get you on the right track. If your company puts profit before purpose, this is for you.

1. What are you looking for in an application?

In a phrase, positive impact. Ideally, that impact is measurable. And more than merely a product of your company’s day-to-day business-though that’s not a strict criterion. (Last year we highlighted Nova Credit, which helps immigrants establish credit profiles in the U.S.-too noble a business model for us to ignore. A more typical example is The Mom Project, which, in addition to upskilling working mothers day-to-day, set up a tech-training scholarship that has landed more than 2,000 women in jobs at companies like IBM and Deloitte.) Big-picture, we’re looking for efforts, initiatives, programs, and the like that go above and beyond a mission-driven business model. Good works, really. 

Pro tip: Be specific, and, where relevant, include numbers we can verify.  

2. Should we enter more than one category?

Probably so. We’re offering more than 40 industry categories this year, including new ones for companies in e-commerce, events and experiential, management consulting, software-as-a-service, sustainability, and more. In addition to those, we’ll also be looking for winners by company size, stage, revenue, and region–as well as awarding an all-around General Excellence winner (think Best Picture). If you can make a good case for your company in multiple categories, you should–Inc.’s team of editors judges entries in each category relative to one another, and looks at each category individually. We’ll award a winner in each category, so the more categories, the better your odds. Last year we selected nearly 200 honorees.

3. We’re a public company, but we really want to enter. Can we?

No. Sorry. To be eligible, a company must be private, based in the U.S., and independent (meaning, not a subsidiary). Our fact-checkers research these criteria, so if you don’t meet them, please save yourself and us the time and money. 

4. Why should I apply and what happens if I win? 

Well, because you want to be recognized as a company that puts purpose before profit by a trusted resource in business media. But there are  many reasons. I can tell you that last year we called the list “The Companies We Admire Most.” Every company will be seen and evaluated by Inc. editors, and whether you make it or not, that puts you on our radar. A good number of honorees will appear in the winter issue of Inc. as well as online, where all honorees will be listed. Consider that we think of our audience of founders and entrepreneurs as a community, and this is one way to join. 

5. When is the deadline?

The early rate deadline to apply is Friday, August 19. After that, the rate increases during the stretch to the final deadline, on Friday, September 16. Don’t let the dog eat your homework. And remember that earlier is better-we’re working on deadline, too, and the more time we have with your app, the more familiar we’ll be with your company. 

Pro tip: You can apply now, save your entry in our system, and pick up working on it until the final deadline.

Still not finding the answer you need? Don’t worry. We have a dedicated team to handle application questions, and you can email them here: BestinBusiness@inc.com.

Good luck, and keep up the good work!

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