* For every budget that goes awry due to poor execution, thousands more lead to sleepless nights and cashless days because they were formulated on flawed assumptions. Viewed from this perspective, the recent flap over President Reagan's proposed budget and its impact on the deficit is perhaps most noteworthy because of the extent to which the debate has focused on everything but the assumptions. Indeed, the Administration's sketch of future macroeconomic bloom -- sustained GNP growth of 4%, along with interest rates and inflation levels recalling the halcyon days of the early 1960s -- seems a product of forecasting alfresco straight from the Rose Garden.

Now, perhaps the President knows something about the economy he's not sharing with the rest of us, but we're acquainted with more than a few private-sector CEOs who are running their companies today as if the next economic frost were just a set of Commerce Department statistics away. What's more, these "pessimists" have one thing in common: they've all managed through some rough weather in the past -- and flourished, while some of their more optimistic colleagues floundered or perished. For those of you who aren't yet willing to bet your companies on the forecasting skills of the Reagan Administration, turn to page 89 and listen to CEOs who "Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Next Recession."

* Perhaps no aspect of entrepreneurship has been subjected to as much scrutiny as the role of the founder. Matrices have been painstakingly etched and a whole new vocabulary created to pinpoint that precise moment when you, the creator, must wise up and step aside to let the real pros come in and do their managerial stuff.

INC. has questioned this piece of wisdom over the past few years, as we have reported that well over two-thirds of the INC. 100 are still being managed by their founders. Maybe, we've concluded, the real challenge for forward-thinking founders is to find a constructive way to stay involved in the business, rather than worrying about how and when to depart.

But there is another point that experts miss in talking about crossing the threshold from entrepreneurial to professional management -- namely, the psychological drama involved. Indeed, a founder probably faces no tougher decision than the one to transform his or her role in the company, or to step aside entirely. Contributing editor Lucien Rhodes recently spent some time with one remarkable founder in the throes of just such a conflict, a founder whose story gives a name to the dilemma -- "Kuolt's Complex" (see page 72).

* The relationship between a magazine and its readers is not unlike that of any company and its customers. You place your order, and you get your product. More accurately, you place your order, and eight months later you receive your product. Sometimes, you get more than you asked for -- three subscriptions, instead of the one you requested, followed promptly by a dunning notice threatening your good name. With nary a trace of irony, we refer to this aspect of our business as fulfillment.

For an editor, "fulfillment" means something altogether different, and has to do with the special bond between publication and reader, one that goes beyond a mere transaction. Often, the most vivid reminders of this come from readers themselves.

Such was the case recently, when we received a gift -- an INC. balloon, pictured above. "INC. magazine has played a major role in helping our 'small business' achieve our endeavors through your informative and inspiring articles," read the accompanying note. "Please accept this as a token of our appreciation." The letter was signed by Gary and Laurie Schlegel, co-owners of a business that makes such decorative balloons.

Over the past seven years, we've come to appreciate the dialogue with our readers -- even on those occasions when it's not as uplifting as with the Schlegels.