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Methodology: How We Measured the Top 50

One of the BusinessWeek 50's main goals is to capture the dynamic nature of strong growth. That's reflected in how we identify the best of the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index. We use 10 performance metrics, starting with sales and earnings growth. We tally both for the most recent 12-month and three-year periods, to reward companies that prosper over time. This year, for the first time, we include long-term earnings prospects. We factor in net profit margins. And finally we account for the market's view, by measuring total shareholder returns for one- and three-year periods.

We weight the results for sales volume, because it's harder for large companies to post impressive revenue- and profit-growth figures. And we factor in the debt-to-capital ratio, to recognize clean balance sheets. That also makes it harder for corporations to qualify with growth that's primarily the result of debt-laden acquisitions.

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