Our First 'Hidden Gems' List Finally Unveiled

Why it's so important to celebrate small-business success in the Green Industry.

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Moments like these are dangerous for me. I'm really more of a glass-half-empty type of guy. I firmly believe that remaining grounded in reality and prepared for the unfavorable is important when managing. But I'm also quite passionate. I'm passionate about family, working out, the Green Bay Packers, Slovenian-style polka music, and underdogs. I'm passionate about this industry and the many small businesses that make it what it is.

Therein lies the danger for me.

Back in January, we embarked on a new initiative. We set out to identify some of the industry's Hidden Gems—relatively "unknown" companies that maybe aren't among the industry's biggest, but are definitely doing great things and deserving of some recognition. We got buried with submissions, so many that I began to question why in the world I suggested doing something like this. But as we plowed our way through ballot after ballot, I was quickly reminded why we did.

This industry is going to rise or fall on the professionalism of the tens of thousands of "small" companies in operation. This is how the average consumer sees our industry, which is why it's so important to celebrate the successes of these smaller companies. When other smaller companies see what their true peers are doing, they are more apt to step up their own games accordingly.

This year's list includes 45 companies that have been growing four times faster than the overall industry. Some are actually "big" companies with more than 20 employees, but many are smaller. The common denominator is that they are really growing. Fast-growing companies always make for a nice story. The companies on our list are also doing great things in the way of sustainability and community philanthropy—both hallmarks of leading Green Industry companies these days.

That said, our first-ever Hidden Gems list is by no means perfect. First of all, in order to get on the list, a company had to submit an entry form. So again, there are likely hundreds if not thousands of companies that are also growing fast, but didn't ask to get on the list. Hopefully they'll ask next year. Also, fast growth doesn't mean a company is automatically destined for fame and fortune. In fact, many a company has grown itself right off the edge of a cliff. So there's a decent chance that some of the companies on this year's list won't even be in business, for one reason or another, a few years from now.

But for now I'm hoping we can all just enjoy this year's list. Let's celebrate the post-Great Recession success these 45 companies have achieved. Together we can continue making this industry even bigger and better than it already is—one Green Industry Pro at a time.