They laughed. They cried. They wanted their money back. But mainly they demanded to be heard. January's "Face-off" on the economy brought forth a flood of faxes, electronic mail, voice mail, and snail mail from readers registering their opinions about the outlook for 1996 and beyond. It was a horse race all the way between those who shared the gloomy views of Inc. 500 CEO Norm Brodsky ("Nowhere to Go but Down") and the cheery partisans of Springfield Remanufacturing Corp.'s Jack Stack ("Looks Like Up to Me"). The final tally: Brodsky, or leaning toward Brodsky, 49%; Stack, or leaning toward Stack, 36%; neither, 15%. Then there was the reader who wrote, "It doesn't matter who is right. Yes, I need to consider economic factors in my planning, but it's up to me to make it happen -- whether the economy goes up or drops." He has a point. Here, after all, we have two smart, experienced, well-informed CEOs with great track records who look at identical conditions and reach polar-opposite conclusions. If ever there was a time to strive for flexibility, this is it.

The economy has nowhere to go but . . .
49% Agreed with Brodsky: Down

36% Agreed with Stack: Up

15% Agreed with neither

* * *