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Announcing the 2018 superaccelerators

6/26/2018 Heidrick & Struggles

Announcing the 2018 Superaccelerators

For the past three years, Heidrick & Struggles has tracked and reported on the most successful companies in terms of sustained growth and profitability. We say these companies are able to accelerate performance, and we call the best among them “superaccelerators.”

These companies represent the elite private-sector organizations that manage to be both big and agile and demonstrate sustained profitable growth over the long haul. As such, becoming a superaccelerator is no easy feat. In fact, just 19 companies met the stringent qualifications in 2018—down from 25 companies in 2017 and 23 in 2016.

We build this list each year on the premise that lasting, profitable growth is driven by an ability to accelerate performance and thus outperform other organizations; companies that achieve acceleration reduce time to value by building and changing momentum more quickly than their competitors. We believe companies set themselves on this path of acceleration by approaching management empirically—that is, by staying true to their vision while adapting to a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous business environment.

Looking at this year’s list, you’ll see companies that you might expect on any list of top-performing companies—and you’ll note the absence of many of those often hailed as the best of the best.

Notable changes in 2018

The 2018 list is marked by high turnover from 2017. Eleven new superaccelerators emerged this year, meaning the list is 58% newcomers, compared with 44% in 2017. Those that fell off the list over the past year include household names such as Alibaba, Apple, Comcast, CVS Health, and Starbucks.

Geographically, the United States has ruled the list for the past two years. This year, however, just 6 of the 19 superaccelerators are based in the United States. In the place of US companies, we saw a surge in companies from Asia Pacific, with 11 hailing from the region, 8 of which come from mainland China, including 1 from Hong Kong. For its part, Europe is home to 2 superaccelerators this year, both of which compete in the healthcare industry (Fresenius, based in Germany, and Medtronic, headquartered in Ireland).

How to qualify

We judge companies from many dimensions to create the superaccelerators list, a compilation unlike any other company ranking. Our approach to naming superaccelerators is conservative by design; it is not meant to be easy to make the list.

The criteria are also objective. We start by looking at the world’s largest 500 companies by market capitalization. We then whittle that list to those in the top 20% for revenue growth year after year both for the past three and the past seven years. We prioritize sustained growth, since revenue growth is the most straightforward way to measure whether a company is meeting customer demands, and we look for companies with growth each year, not aggregate growth, during these periods. Among those companies, we look for those with no more than 20% of their growth coming inorganically—that is, we eliminate companies that have expanded primarily through acquisitions, thus buying their way to growth. Next, we weed out companies that received more than 20% of their revenue from their home government. And finally, to be deemed a superaccelerator, companies must not have seen their profit margin reduced by more than 20% as a percentage of revenue as they grew. In this way, we ensure companies haven’t aggressively pursued growth at the expense of profitability.

Looking ahead

In the end, accelerating performance is about mastering constant change, adaptability, and agility. For businesses, this is, of course, a race that never ends—and the rate of change necessary to qualify as a superaccelerator is difficult to maintain.

While certainly some of the names on this year’s list will repeat in 2019, we look forward each year to celebrating the achievements of a diverse set of companies from around the world. And as business becomes ever more global, it’s very possible the list of superaccelerators will continue to evolve to reflect that reach.

About the research team

Ruben Hillar ( is a consultant in Heidrick & Struggles’ Washington, DC, office and a member of Heidrick Consulting.

Kanika Walia ( is an assistant manager at the firm’s Knowledge Management Center; he is based in the Gurgaon office.


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