The still-weak economy, credit availability, concerns over health care reform and political gridlock in Washington: All are reasons for business owners to be satisfied with maintaining the status quo, instead of trying to grow.
But the NJBIZ list of the top 100 privately owned companies has plenty of examples of leaders who adapted their strategies to fit the changing times.
One such example is Eatontown-based video communications company Yorktel, which jumped from No. 83 last year to No. 72 on the strength of its expanded sales force. CEO Ron Gaboury says Yorktel's sales team grew 75 percent in 2011.
Previously, "Our sales force was busy catering to our large-demand customers, so they had no time to look for new customers," Gaboury said. "We could have stayed with the status quo, but we decided to make radical changes. We made a $2 million investment in our sales force in 2011 and it started to pay off in 2012."
The strategy paid off, as 25 percent of Yorktel's business in 2012 came from new customers.
Western World Insurance Group, which sells highly specialized commercial insurance to places such as apartment buildings, day care centers and trucking companies, rose from 49th to No. 42 this year.
Thomas Mulligan, president and CEO, credits that to higher sales and improved products.
"We developed industry-leading techniques and found new distribution sources," he said. "The modestly improving economy, coupled with low interest rates, has also impacted the industry as a whole."
Revenue at the 49-year-old, privately owned Franklin Lakes company grew by 9 percent in 2012. Mulligan said some of that is a result of agent-specific technology that has been developed.
Jingoli-DCO Energy also moved up in the rankings, rising from 23rd to 19th.
"We had a very good year in 2012, in terms of the projects we worked on and the projects we completed," said Frank DiCola, president and CEO of DCO Energy, an affiliate of Joseph Jingoli & Son.
The 13-year-old company completed two major projects in 2012, a district energy plant and a cogeneration plant, both at Revel Casino–Hotel.
Another reason for Jingoli's high revenue in 2012 was its acquisition of Hartford Steam Co., in Connecticut, which heats and cools many of the largest buildings in Hartford. The company also purchased a 100-megawatt power plant in California.
"These projects take time to develop, but we have a lot of opportunities ahead of us," DiCola said. "We're very active in the area of renewable energy, and we have a number of outstanding proposals throughout the United States for 2014."
Over the past three years, Datapipe's revenue has grown 62 percent worldwide as the Jersey City-based company expanded its data center footprint.
In 2012, the company rose from No. 85 to No. 69 among the top 100, with much of that revenue growth fueled by the launch of a new data center in Iceland and the opening of a second office in Hong Kong.
"Datapipe's global reach and managed hosting capabilities provide our clients with a trusted partner to secure, manage, optimize and scale mission-critical IT applications," said CEO Robb Allen.