The stars of the Inc. 500 are, as always, the companies that appear throughout this issue. On this page, however, I'd like to recognize the Inc. 500 project team. This year's group of writers and reporters, led by executive editor Ed Sussman, worked tirelessly to do something Inc. has never done in the 22-year history of the 500: publish a profile of every single company on the list. Ed and I have worked together on a number of big magazine projects over the years, but this one beat them all. The task required thousands of hours on top of the already demanding six months it took to select the 500 winners. The individual company portraits, however, allow Inc. to showcase as never before the exceptional achievements of the people who founded, lead, and work at Inc. 500 companies. I suggest that a good way to enjoy this issue is simply to flip to any section--the profiles are categorized by industry--and start reading. No matter where you begin, I'm sure you'll find stories that stir your admiration, give you a chuckle, and inspire you to accomplish great things. To draw attention to the enormous quantity of sound advice and practical tips jammed into this issue, I've gone through the magazine and yellow-highlighted some of my favorites.

Inc. is like no other major business magazine in that the people who read it and the people it writes about are one and the same. The magazine is something of a community by proxy for entrepreneurs who might otherwise never learn from one another. In fact, just as we were going to press, we received a note about the merger of Knightsbridge and BASE Consulting, two former Inc. 500 companies who found each other through our list. (Not surprisingly, Jonathan Wu, chairman of BASE, and Rod Walker, CEO of Knightsbridge, report the two teams are getting along famously post-merger.) It's our hope that this issue will allow our readers to continue to learn about and from each other in the most comprehensive manner we could dream up.

Special thanks to deputy art director Rob Hewitt, who led the day-to-day Inc. 500 design; to special projects reporter Lora Kolodny for helping to solicit the many thousands of applications and create our online executive survey, and to all the members of the incredible Inc. staff for devoting so much of their time and energy to creating this extraordinary issue.