Corporate Executive Board Co., a research firm that went public during the height of the Internet bubble, is not the creation of three techies in a garage. Its founders didn't spend time coming up with a catchy name, and the company still doesn't have a public relations staff.

But it is one of the most successful Washington area companies to hold an initial public offering in the past five years. The company's stock, which opened on the public markets at $19 a share in February 1999, trades at about $55 a share.

Corporate Executive Board's relative obscurity can be blamed in part on the complexity of its offerings. The company conducts research on how businesses operate, selling its findings to executives looking to improve their companies.

A human resources manager trying to help the employees of an acquired company fit into into a new corporate culture, for example, can go to Corporate Executive Board's Web site to learn what worked best for other managers with the same problem. Technology directors can find out how other companies integrated old computer systems with new ones. Financial executives can learn how their peers are dealing with new accounting standards.

"I think we found a huge hole in the market between what people could accomplish with their own staff and Rolodex and hiring a consulting firm to come in and do a project for millions and millions of dollars," said James J. McGonigle, chairman and chief executive.

The company was founded as part of Advisory Board Co., a health care consulting firm also based in the District. Corporate Executive Board was spun off in 1997 and raised $155.6 million in a February 1999 initial public offering.

Corporate Executive Board has 2,100 subscribers. The information it offers to chief security officers is different from that tailored to marketing executives. For a $35,000 annual subscription to one of Corporate Executive Board's 28 specialized programs, users can see all the relevant reports, request research on a new topic and attend a yearly meeting with their counterparts at other companies.

The company posted $35.7 million profit on $210.2 million in revenue last year, and executives predict a 25 percent increase in sales this year. McGonigle said the company is selling to about half of its potential customers, so it is focused on signing up the rest and encouraging existing customers to buy subscriptions to more services.

-- Ellen McCarthy

James J. McGonigle heads the obscurely named Corporate Executive Board Co.