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The Most Profitable Small Businesses

Brett Nelson
Maureen Farrell

Based on 300,000 companies, most with annual sales under $10 million. One takeaway: Specialization pays off.

Spiking sales might make for good cocktail conversation, but if you don't turn a profit--and keep turning one--you won't be in business very long. With the help of Sageworks, a Raleigh, N.C.-based accounting consultancy and private-company data provider, Forbes assembled a list of the 20 most profitable businesses, on a pretax basis, that aspiring entrepreneurs might launch. At No. 1: offices of Certified Public Accountants, with an average pretax margin of 17.1%. Wired communication carriers (transmission-line operators and the like), which clock an average 10.1% margin, brought up the rear.

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