Those whose turnover has risen by at least 50 per cent a year over the last five years could not only find themselves sharing an accolade previously received by the likes of Stagecoach, but could also be in line for a year's free membership of a pioneering business forum.
Much imitated, but never bettered, The Independent on Sunday's table of Britain's fastest-growing private companies is now in its ninth year.
This year we have teamed up with KITE, a new business venture established by the accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hayward. BDO, which has long been a specialist adviser to entrepreneurial businesses, has launched KITE to give chief executives access to advice and support that would otherwise not be available to them. With new companies signing up all the time, a year's membership - worth pounds 8,400 - is a highly desirable first prize for this year's KITE/Independent 100.
However, to have a chance of winning it, you must be a very special organisation. Although not all the companies featured in the previous eight listings have been household names, they have been world-class performers - creating thousands of jobs at a time when many of the country's best-known companies have been shedding workers.
Moreover, their achievements have been a key factor in forcing politicians and others to re-evaluate their views of the British economy. It is in an effort to replicate their success that the Government is looking at various initiatives, including tax mea- sures announced in the Budget, to boost the entrepreneurial environment.
To see if you can compete at this level, you need to be running a privately owned company that has been in existence for at least five years. Sales growth is judged over the five years to 31 December 1998, and sales in the first of those years must have been at least pounds 250,000. All companies entering must present audited accounts showing a profit in at least the last of those years.
For companies that have moved beyond the start-up phase, but are still growing rapidly, there is another contest. The Middle Market 50 is open to businesses registering annual turnover of at least pounds 5m in the first year. In past years, many companies have featured in both listings.
n Completed certified entry forms must be received not later than Friday 2 April 1999.
Forms should be sent to Philip Rego, KITE/Independent 100, Willoughby House, 439 Richmond Road, East Twickenham, Middlesex TW1 2HA.