San Diego-based Canale Communications recently made Inc. magazine’s annual Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing privately-owned businesses in the U.S. Here, the life science agency’s founder and CEO Carin Canale-Theakston talks to us about what being on the Inc. 5000 list means to her — and how she wisely manages her company’s growth.

The Inc. 5000 list recognizes fast-growing private businesses that are creating the most value and jobs. As an Inc. 5000 company, how has Canale Communications managed its progressive and substantial growth?

Canale-Theakston: As a business owner, I’m proud that we have achieved a level of growth deemed exceptional by the Inc. editorial team. By the numbers, growth is important and helps position us as a leader and advocate within the life sciences community we serve. But when I think about growth, I think about smart growth. We don’t want to get too big too fast, or feel pressure to accept new opportunities that don’t fit our ethos as a company. Smart growth, to me, means hiring great people with varied skill sets and experience, and retaining a really strong leadership team to support and lead our growth. These are both things I believe we do well. Our staff brings together an incredible variety of talents that span public relations, investor relations, website development and more. And most of our senior leadership team has been with us from day one.

That’s great insight into your philosophy on growth. Many of the Inc. 5000 companies sell a product. But as a communications consultancy and knowledge service provider, Canale Communications provides something quite different. How do you view growth in comparison to your Inc. 5000 peers?

Canale-Theakston: Great question. As a life science communications firm, we do sell a service and not a product — and because of that, our reputation is everything. At the end of the day, the work we do on behalf of our partners, and the work they do with us as their communications backbone, becomes our brand. It’s important that we say yes to work that aligns with our values, is exciting to our team and is important to society in some way. All money is not created equal. We do say no to potential business that could represent significant revenue if that business could jeopardize our reputation. And we say yes to potential business that might only be a fraction of our revenue goal because we see it as a differentiating opportunity — maybe it’s a mobile health startup with an all-star team or an early-stage drug company an incredible technology. As a privately-held business, we have the luxury and the challenge of being selective about who we work with and why.

Thank you. As you prepare to celebrate your Inc. 5000 recognition with your team, are there any additional thoughts you’d like to share on why growth matters?

Canale-Theakston: I would just reiterate that growth for growth’s sake is a fool’s errand, and a sentiment with which the life science entrepreneurs we serve — many of whom are working tirelessly to save lives and help people — would likely agree. To me, smart growth means choosing wisely, working with the best people and remaining focused on what we love: communicating new scientific and technology advancements that improve peoples’ lives.