Oracle wanted to get inside the heads of the leaders of America's fastest-growing companies. What makes them tick? What makes them successful? What got their business to where it is today? What's their focus, and what are their plans for the coming year and beyond?

To do this, Oracle teamed with Inc. Media to survey present and past members of the Inc. 5000, leaders of private companies that have enjoyed the greatest growth rates over the previous three years.

The results of the survey, The Talent and Tech Driving America's Fastest Growing Companies, paint a picture of extremely optimistic small- and medium-sized (SMB) leaders driven by hard work, fueled by vision, and relentlessly focused on growth by selecting / retaining the right talent and providing a superior customer experience.

Want to know more? Well, let's dig into the details.

Success drivers

In terms of the personal qualities that drove their success to date, hard work was the most important factor; 48 percent of the respondents named it as one of the top three personal traits that lead to their success. This was followed by vision (41 percent) and industry knowledge or expertise (34 percent).

In terms of the business-related reasons for the companies making the Inc. 5000, the number one response was great sales and marketing (41 percent had this as a top three choice), followed closely by ability to scale and having the right management team in place.

Optimistic outlook

The study also revealed that the leaders of the Inc. 5000 companies are wildly optimistic about their business prospects. Nearly nine out of 10 respondents (89 percent) described themselves as either "extremely" or "very" confident about success in 2017.

Not only are they confident, they are channeling that confidence with key actions and investments:

  • 91 percent intend to hire more employees, with a focus on those with the leadership skills needed to handle the demands of a fast-growing business
  • 65 percent plan on moving into new markets
  • 61 percent plan on offering new products
  • 38 percent intend to open new offices
  • 32 percent plan on doing more business internationally·

On the technology front, 41 percent cited investing in technology, including cloud solutions, as a top priority for 2017.

Speaking of the cloud...

Survey respondents indicated a high comfort level with the cloud. More than 83 percent had at least two functions in the cloud, while 64 percent had at least three, and 39 percent relied on at least four cloud solutions.

In terms of reasons for moving to the cloud, the single most important factor cited by the respondents was scalability and flexibility for growth (50 percent) followed by maintaining a competitive edge (23 percent). Twenty-two percent see the primary benefit as increased internal communication and collaboration.

Top current uses of the cloud include:

  • Data storage- for warehousing large volumes of data (68 percent)
  • Applications (62 percent)
  • Sales (51 percent)
  • Database- data organized especially for rapid search and retrieval (48 percent)

However, some respondents did indicate concerns with using the cloud. One key concern was the ability to achieve complete integration across all functional areas/product lines (cited by 44 percent).

Additional key findings

Other insights from the survey include:

  • Effectively managing fast growth was viewed as the single biggest obstacle to maintaining growth, with 49 percent choosing it as one of their top issues. It seems that for many SMB leaders, there can be too much of a good thing. The top three also included the ability to grow sales and to attract and retain skilled employees.

  • If there was an especially surprising result, it was that many SMB leaders did not place finance and data security anywhere near the top of the list of factors contributing to the success of their companies. In fact, only four percent cited having an understanding of their financial position as the most important factor, while less than one percent put data security in the top spot. This does not necessarily mean they were not concerned with these issues, but it clearly demonstrates that sales and talent are much more top of mind.

  • In a time when there is a great deal of debate about international trade, 45 percent of the respondents are currently doing business internationally, and the majority of those companies expect to increase that activity in 2017. Another 10 percent intend to start doing business internationally in 2017. Only 35 percent intend to operate exclusively in the U.S.

  • On a more whimsical point, when asked what they would do if an extra $1 million fell into their lap, SMB respondents said they would focus their spend on the factors that initially helped their companies land on the Inc. 5000 list. Close to half (46 percent) would use it to upgrade and expand their sales teams; 44 percent would expand advertising and marketing efforts; and 43 percent would improve business operations.

To get more detailed information, download the survey results -The Talent and Tech Driving America's Fastest Growing Companies - today.

About the survey

Oracle partnered with Inc. Media to survey leaders of companies that are current or recent Inc. 5000 honorees. The Inc. 5000 list ranks companies by three-year sales growth, among other factors. The top company on the 2016 Inc. 5000 list, LootCrate, grew revenue a whopping 67 percent over three years, to $116 million. The average growth rate of the Inc. 5000 was 128 percent over three years, with average annual sales of $40 million.

Most importantly, these 5000 companies created 640,127 new jobs over the previous three years.