Win a place on a list of the best

IF YOU think your company has what it takes to compete with the likes of the Carphone Warehouse, JD Wetherspoon and Stagecoach, you could be in the running for a major prize and a place in the pre-eminent listing of UK private companies, writes Roger Trapp.

But you have to hurry: entries for the KITE/Independent 100 survey of Britain's fastest-growing private companies must be in by Friday, 2 April.

Much imitated, but never bettered, The Independent on Sunday's table of Britain's fastest-growing private companies is now in its ninth year of operation. This year we have teamed up with KITE, a new business venture established by the accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hayward to give chief executives of entrepreneurial businesses access to advice and support that would not otherwise be available to them. For the first time the top-ranked company is being offered a prize - a year's membership of the pioneering business forum, worth pounds 8,400.

To qualify for inclusion in the listing, companies should have seen turnover rise by at least 50 per cent a year over the last five years.

Although not all the companies that have 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 the effort to replicate their success that the Government is looking at various initiatives - including tax measures announced in the last Budget - to boost the entrepreneurial environment.

To compete at such a 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 five years leading up to 31 December 1998. To ensure that only substantial businesses qualify, sales in the first of those five years must be at least pounds 250,000. Moreover, 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, which 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.

Completed certified entry forms must be received not later than Friday 2 April 1999, and should be sent to Philip Rego, KITE/Independent 100, Willoughby House, 439 Richmond Road, East Twickenham, Middlesex, TW1 2HA.