Art's-Way Manufacturing (No. 57), a maker of obscure gear such as cattle feed grinders and sugar beet harvesters, has rapidly moved to improve its operational efficiency and broaden its base of business. "We decided we can't stand still, even in good times," says Carrie Majeski, the company's 33-year-old CEO.
Recession-daunted entrepreneurs, take note: New markets can be not only an effective counter to slumping sales but an extra kicker for tomorrow's growth as well. Domestic sales of Art's-Way's plows, ditchers, feed grinders, and defoliators fell about 5% in 2007, but the company's total sales jumped 28%, to $25 million.
"We had about $2 million in export sales last year to Russia, China, France, and several other countries," says chairman Ward McConnell, who owns 40% of Art's-Way's shares. "Not bad, considering we didn't do any exports two years ago."
In December 2006, Art's-Way was trading at less than $5 per share; by June 2008 the price was $20. Somewhere, Art Luscombe, the company's late founder and namesake, has gotta be smiling.