When the financial crisis hit, small businesses were hit hard, but it looks like business owners are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

According to a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, small business optimism is the highest it's been since December 2007, particularly with regard to job creation and spending plans. A few of the highlights: less unfilled job openings, and more hiring (and fewer layoffs) on the horizon.

But while the outlook is generally brighter, the survey also illuminated a couple of dark spots: many businesses plan to continue liquidating inventories and raising prices in order to meet their bottom lines.

So how do you find the small-cap stocks to play this trend? At Kapitall, we took a look at the small-cap stocks with the best management teams, based on the following ratios:

  • Return on equity, a metric of profitability, based on profit generated with shareholders' investments
  • Return on invested capital, a measure of a company's use of money to generate returns
  • Return on assets, indicating profitability relative to a company's total assets

In these past two years of volatile times, the following management teams have led in their respective industries -- as conditions improve, will these small-cap management teams continue to outperform the competition? (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)

Company

Market Cap (In Millions)

Return on Assets (ROA)

Return on Invested Capital (ROI)

Return on Equity (ROE)

Vascular Solutions (Nasdaq: VASC)

$200.49

Five-year average ROA at 9.89% vs. industry average at 8.22%

Five-year average ROI at 13% vs. industry average at 11.21%

Five-year average ROE at 14.86% vs. industry average at 13.74%

National Research (Nasdaq: NRCI)

$226.25

Five-year average ROA at 11.28% vs. industry average at 6.01%

Five-year average ROI at 14.82% vs. industry average at 10.32%

Five-year average ROE at 17.86% vs. industry average at 12.72%

Dynamex (Nasdaq: DDMX)

$241.56

Five-year average ROA at 9.93% vs. industry average at 3.36%

Five-year average ROI at 13.33% vs. industry average at 4.92%

Five-year average ROE at 13.86% vs. industry average at 7.35%

Amerigon (Nasdaq: ARGN)

$244.71

Five-year average ROA at 13.75% vs. industry average at 5.47%

Five-year average ROI at 17.2% vs. industry average at 8.21%

Five-year average ROE at 16.36% vs. industry average at 10.29%

Capital Gold (NYSE: CGC)

$305.99

Five-year average ROA at 9.29% vs. industry average at 6.83%

Five-year average ROI at 11.36% vs. industry average at 8.26%

Five-year average ROE at 14.59% vs. industry average at 11.64%

Preformed Line Products (Nasdaq: PLPC)

$312.47

Five-year average ROA at 8.33% vs. industry average at 5.96%

Five-year average ROI at 10.37% vs. industry average at 8.88%

Five-year average ROE at 11.1% vs. industry average at 10.05%

Global Sources (Nasdaq: GSOL)

$341.07

Five-year average ROA at 10.55% vs. industry average at 7.13%

Five-year average ROI at 17.49% vs. industry average at 10.35%

Five-year average ROE at 16.7% vs. industry average at 13.89%

Epoch Investment Partners (Nasdaq: EPHC)

$378.65

Five-year average ROA at 14.34% vs. industry average at 8.49%

Five-year average ROI at 16.19% vs. industry average at 10.55%

Five-year average ROE at 15.84% vs. industry average at 12.88%

Ituran Location & Control (Nasdaq: ITRN)

$400.1

Five-year average ROA at 16.24% vs. industry average at 6.01%

Five-year average ROI at 21.71% vs. industry average at 10.32%

Five-year average ROE at 23.43% vs. industry average at 12.72%

Management efficiency data sourced from Reuters. The list has been sorted by market cap.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to see how the market caps have changed for all the stocks mentioned above.


Kapitall's Eben Esterhuizen and Alicia Sellitti do not own shares of any companies mentioned. Ituran Location & Control is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.