Business Cycle

Marcelo Paladini

CEO, Cynergy Data, New York City No. 489

As hordes of New Yorkers pour into subways, crowd into the bus, or shuffle down the streets for their daily commutes, Marcelo Paladini hops onto his BMW R1200 C Montauk and zips by all of them. This daily traffic-dodging gives him a kind of high; his weekend rides in the New York countryside give him another. "The adrenaline picks up when you are in the city in traffic," says Paladini, who's been riding since he was a teen in his native Argentina. "The way I drive, it is pure fun."

Iron Chief

Michael Lacey

CEO, Digineer, St. Louis Park, Minn. No. 438

For Michael Lacey (center), there's nothing more enjoyable than tying on an apron and getting behind a hot stove. (Last year, he spent 28 hours preparing a five-course, 15-dish meal for a company dinner.) But in September, it was Lacey's staffers doing the cooking when he threw an Iron Chef cook-off. The 45 employees split into teams and created a three-course meal. Per Iron Chef rules, every dish had to include the same main ingredient--in this case, apples. Given his own kitchen skills, Lacey sat out the competition.

Sales Targets

Brian Paavola

CEO, Phoenix Personnel, Wyoming, Mich. No. 490

Three years ago, Brian Paavola (far left) gave his sales reps provocative holiday gifts: 20-gauge semiautomatic shotguns. The idea was to teach them to shoot clay pigeons so they could go on shooting outings with clients--and also to cultivate a new cadre of hunting buddies for the boss. Now the group heads out to the range the way people at other companies play a round of golf, and Paavola says he's thinking about a grouse hunt next.

Horse Sense

Brad Walters

CEO, MaxStream, Lindon, Utah No. 92

Centuries ago, in the Welsh countryside, Brad Walters's family raised horses. More recently, five generations of Walterses have trained quarter horses at the family's ranch in Kaysville, Utah. Indeed, as soon as Brad Walters could toddle, he was dropped into a pair of cowboy boots and sent to feed the horses at the family farm. Now, at 40, he trains seven quarter horses (including Blondie, pictured), prepping them for eventual show and sale. "To take a horse to a point that anybody can ride it and the horse won't get hurt--it's pretty awe-inspiring," he says.

No Small Plans

Jeffrey Thorn

CEO, Employer Solutions Group, Bakersfield, Calif. No. 302

As a kid, Jeffrey Thorn fantasized about owning a sports team. The dream came true last year when he dropped $50,000 on a soccer franchise, the Bakersfield Brigade, which competes in the Professional Development League. (Most of the athletes are talented collegians on summer vacation.) Thorn is just as passionate about the Bakersfield youth league he helped organize. His latest dream: that his young players will win athletic scholarships to college--and maybe spots on the Brigade.

For the Birds

Jane Hileman

CEO, American Reading Co., King of Prussia, Pa. No. 336

Whenever Jane Hileman goes on a business trip, she tacks on an extra day--not to visit the local monuments or museums, but to look at the birds. She's been fascinated with birds since she was a young girl vacationing on the coast of North Carolina and her aunt pointed out 35 different species of shore birds. Hileman has since seen 297 of North America's estimated 850 species of birds--from a brown chickadee in a South Carolina parking lot to a phalarope at a Texas municipal sewer plant. "When you're looking at birds, listening, breathing in, you change," she says. "It's where you get back in touch with what really matters."

Health Plan

Michael Kalinsky

CEO, Empyrean Management Group, Blue Bell, Pa. No. 385

Michael Kalinsky has an unusual way of unwinding: He volunteers as an emergency medical technician. One night a week he's at the local fire station; a few nights a month he works at sporting events and concerts. As an EMT he's dealt with everything from heart attacks to attempted homicides. Sound stressful? Not to Kalinsky. "Once you've got it in your system, the adrenaline rush, the sense of accomplishment, there's nothing in the business world that can come close," he says.

Runner's World

Richard O'Donnell

CEO, FootBridge, Andover, Mass. No. 258

Come lunchtime at FootBridge, most staffers dash out for sandwiches. Richard O'Donnell heads for the woods for his daily five- or six-mile jog. When it's snowing, he finds a snowplow and runs behind it. Even an important business deal won't slow him down. "If I have big meetings, big decisions, big presentations, I try to time them so they're after a big run," he says. "I can't tell you any time in 30 years where I've gone for a run and not felt better when I came back."