An alarmingly high percentage of top executives believe they don't have enough information to run their own companies.

Do you know enough to run your company effectively?

YES 61%

NO 39%

It's surprising how many of you feel inadequate for your task. And what's really startling is how far up the corporate ladder the knowledge gap creeps. Thirty-one percent of owners and founders, 38% of CEOs and presidents, and 44% of top managers said they didn't know enough to run their companies effectively. Then again, as one of you said, "Does anyone really?" No matter what you do to try to keep abreast, "I am always behind and always over my head." That actually may provide some comfort to those of you who find your knowledge wanting. As one put it: "I thought I was the only one that felt I was losing control of my business and my mind."

How do you spend most of your work time?
Managing people 54%

Selling 51%

Developing new ideas 44%

Putting out fires 41%

Negotiating deals 35%

Learning about your industry 23%

Day-to-day operations 15%

Learning to manage better 12%

How much of your time do you spend developing new ideas?
About a quarter 47%

Very little 30%

Half 16%

More than half 6%

All 1%

What does the confident businessperson's day look like? Well, those of you who feel on top of things spend more time than those who don't managing people (60% versus 47%) and negotiating deals (38% versus 30%), and less time selling (47% versus 58%) and putting out fires (36% versus 51%). Not surprisingly, those who think you know enough to run your businesses spend more time developing new ideas than those who don't (50% versus 36%). Overall, however, only 23% of you claimed to spend more than a quarter of your time on new ideas. "All resources, financial and managerial, are dedicated to survival in these difficult times" was a common refrain. Others suggested that might be a little shortsighted. "Current economic conditions have made planning absolutely necessary." Those whose companies are still in the start-up phase seem to have the least time for brainstorming. But, hey, don't knock it. According to one reader, "Putting out fires and developing new ideas are not competitors -- a fire is a source of new ideas."

Note: Multiple responses account for total percentages above 100%.

Where do you get most of your ideas?

Magazines 50%

My customers 46%

My employees 29%

Books 23%

My competitors 20%

Industry conferences 19%

Myself/brainstorming 16%

Trade shows 14%

My vendors 13%

My senior managers 13%

Newspapers 12%

Management conferences 9%

Larger companies 9%

Audiotapes 5%

Videotapes 1%

There are too many information sources competing for your attention, so you try to seek out specific, useful, cost-efficient sources of information. Magazines lead the list, while just as customized but more expensive sources like conferences, trade shows, and videos are used less frequently.

When we asked about the source of the biggest idea you had in the past year, the answers were predictable: yourself, customers, magazines, and employees, in that order. Other answers ranged from the disarmingly honest -- desperation, a lawsuit, "I'm not sure I had any big ideas last year" -- to the humorous: dreams, a rotisserie baseball league, and a conversation with a stripper. But possibly the most telling was the reader who said his biggest idea came from his wife: "We decided I should retire."

What do you most need to know more about?
Selling and marketing 53%

Finance/cash flow 48%

My competitors 35%

Managing people 35%

My industry in general 30%

Computer technology 28%

The economy in general 10%

The international economy 8%

Nonbusiness information 7%

Other 5%

Here again you focused on hands-on, practical information. Who's got the time to learn anything new when you're doing all you can just to stay afloat? You want to know what's going to help you right now with sales, cash flow, and managing your work force. And information on what your competitors are up to wouldn't hurt, either. Context seems to be less important to you; you're less interested in knowing more about the national or global economies or nonbusiness information. One of you aptly summed it up: "So much information, so little time." -- Christopher Caggiano n