There are a lot of different ways to look at a company — how much it sells, how many people it employs, whether it makes any money. These tables offer investors greater insights into what makes Northwest companies tick. Click on a graphic to view it full-size.
Sales: Sound of cash registers
Many lists, including the Fortune 500, use top-line revenue to rank companies. In fact, only 11 Northwest companies had enough 2011 sales to crack the 500.
Sales growth: Fast out of the gate
Smaller companies often experience the fastest revenue growth — it's easier to show big percentage gains when your sales are measured in millions (or thousands) rather than billions.
Asset turnover: Stocked shelves
The turnover ratio — net sales divided by average total assets — measures a company's efficiency at generating revenue from its asset base.
Profit growth: Bottom line
As with sales, smaller companies often show bigger year-to-year changes in profits (or losses) than large ones.
Profits: Name of the game
For businesses, the bottom line is literally the bottom line: A company that can't show net profits sooner or later won't be around very long.
Profit margin: Top line to bottom
Companies want as much of their revenue as possible to end up as profit. That means keeping costs — for labor, raw materials, paper clips, executive jets — as stable as possible.
Free cash flow: Ready money
Cash isn't immune to accounting gimmickry, but it's harder to manipulate than earnings — hence the old saw, "Earnings are an opinion, but cash is king."
Cash-flow change: Hoard, spend?
If a company wants to develop new products, pursue other growth opportunities, service its debts or pay dividends, it has to lay out actual cash.
Return on assets
Return on assets — net income divided by total assets — is a standard profitability measure; think of it as a mileage rating for businesses.
Return on invested capital
Though a useful analytic tool, return on invested capital (ROIC) can be affected dramatically by changes in deferred tax liabilities, as was the case with several of the top-ranking companies on this list.
P-E: Are you paying too much?
Essentially, P-E tells potential investors how much they'd be paying for each dollar of a company's earnings.
Market cap: There might be giants
Market capitalization — the number of common shares outstanding multiplied by the stock price — is a common gauge of a company's size.
Dividends: Show me the money!
Dividends are perhaps the ultimate expression of a stock's value to investors.
Employee growth: The payroll
A company's workforce can grow or shrink for many reasons besides changes in the core business: acquisitions, spinoffs, asset sales or entering new markets.
Employees: Where the jobs are
Retail and manufacturing are both labor-intensive businesses, so it's no surprise that most of the region's biggest employers are either manufacturers or retailers with nationwide footprints.