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The Most Profitable Business Sectors

Some small businesses have more success than others. Some of the most successful are found in certain industries.

One-Person Businesses Can Have Millions in Sales

Some small businesses are very small, but their size does not limit their success. In fact, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there were about 400 businesses with no employees other than the owner that reported revenues of more than $5 million in 2011. It is possible to have independent contractors working with a business that is considered to be a one-person firm, which means the business owner may not have to do all of the work required for success.

That year, there were 22.5 million one-person businesses. Those single-employee operations generated an average of about $44,000 a year in sales. Almost 28,000, or about 0.1 percent, of those businesses had revenues topping $1 million. Only ten percent of one-person businesses generated revenues of more than $100,000 a year.

The Most Successful Businesses Are in Four Sectors

Census Bureau data assigns all businesses a place in one of eighteen sectors. There are successes and failures in any sector, but the top grossing one-person businesses are clustered in only four sectors. Most of the high-revenue businesses were finance and insurance firms. A small group of these businesses are in arts and entertainment, and their success might not be possible to duplicate. There were a number of retail operations grossing more than $1 million a year, and there were also a number of consulting firms at that level.

To some extent, there may be a degree of luck involved with achieving this level of success. In the arts and entertainment sector, for example, there are a number of talented performers, but only a few with million-dollar revenue streams. Hard work, however, is always required of these high performing firms, and significant rewards are possible for any business owner.


Michael Carr is a small business expert who has been involved in the successful development of three small businesses.