The year 2018 has been a continuing success story for a broad range of firms doing business in, or from, Northern Ireland or owned by Northern Ireland based people. To qualify as one of the Top 100 the minimum level of pre-tax profit has increased year by year.
Selecting a number of businesses to be placed in a league table showing changing degrees of success is revealing.
Identifying success is altogether more satisfying than reporting when things go wrong.
2018 was not a boom year: in fact 2018 overall was a year of slow, but undoubted, expansion.
The Top 100 league table shows numerous examples of some firms outpacing their rivals.
The criterion for selection is easily stated. A yardstick to allow a league table to be devised was needed and, as in other recent years, we focused on evidence of profitability.
To develop a coherent base, we emphasised the earning of pre-tax profits.
Just to use one indicator, such as pre-tax profits, is not always a useful standalone comparator.
Business events, particularly unusual circumstances sometimes creating exceptional income, or gains, or exceptional losses or impairment deductions, which mean that year to year comparators can be less reliable as pointers to trends of change.
Nevertheless, to retain a standard presentation affecting all businesses in a professionally consistent way, the Top 100 have been ranked after analysing several hundred sets of registered accounts and compiled from a very long list of locally registered businesses.
Listing over 300 businesses in rank order by pre-tax profits is a revealing exercise. One feature deserves special mention.
Since pre-tax profits for any individual firm can vary widely from one year to another, small changes in pre-tax profits can move a specific business many places up or down the list.
To illustrate this feature, starting with the pre-tax cut-off point for the 100th business at £4.4m, there are nine firms with pre-tax profits between £4.4m and £4.9m as well as 12 with results in the range £4.0m to £4.39m.
Small changes might move a business from 100th to 90th or 112th place in the rank order.
In the language of the statisticians, a Top 100 list, year to year, is subject to a major degree of churn without that churn indicating either major successes or failure in the league table.
Of businesses which were included in 2018, 23 have left the list but none have closed. And 23 have joined the list, most because of an improved level of profitability.