The Business Journal’s 2016 and 2017 lists of fastest-growing privately held firms sported a statistical anomaly.

In both years we found exactly 157 small, midsize and large companies that met the main metric: at least 15% sales growth over a two-year period.

This year, we tallied 148 companies. This slightly smaller cadre of expanding businesses reported sales to $26.5 billion, about 40% higher than last year’s $19 billion.

The companies reporting sales above $100 million are finding ways to keep the double-digit growth going—even the biggest among them:

• Irvine-based Golden State Foods, $7.2 billion in sales, 19% two-year growth. It’s controlling higher ingredient and trucking costs by running its own fleet, and establishing a nimble subsidiary, Quality Custom Distribution Inc., to gain entree with smaller customers and diversify from its reliance on McDonald’s Corp.

• Steve Jones took Santa Ana-based Allied Universal to $5.4 billion, 155% growth in the two-year period, by being acquisitive. The chief executive also embraces technology; robots are joining his armada of 200,000-plus worldwide employees. And of course if you’re going to grow like Allied, it helps to be in a market, security, at the right time: intellectual property theft, workplace violence, terrorism and reductions in local law enforcement have all been a boon to Jones’ company.

“Executives are thinking about keeping their people safe in their work environment and what can damage their brands,” Jones told the Business Journal last year. “That keeps CEOs up at night.”

• Orange-based SA Recycling saw 152% growth in the last two years to $1.6 billion. It lost its founder and patriarch, George Adams, this June. He was 93 and started the predecessor company, Orange County Steel Salvage, in 1973. SA today is one of the biggest scrap metal recycling companies in the U.S.

George Adams Jr., who is now chief executive, told the Recycling Today website that the most important thing his father taught him “was to never give up, to never quit. No matter what happened, he just got back up and started swinging. My dad didn’t know what it was [like] to lose because he would never give up, therefore, he couldn’t lose.”

And no one knows how Adams and his people did it better than his banker. Richard Cabrera, now an executive Vice President at Umpqua Bank, lent Adams money 20 years ago when he ran a much smaller operation (see separate story, page 5).

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