Jim Melloan, Project Manager for the Inc. 500/5,000, and one of the 47 heads here, stopped by my office the other day to discuss a few last-minute details having to do with this issue. I asked him how he was doing. He responded, "Every day is like an episode of 24."

I think everyone who reads Inc., and certainly everyone whose company is featured in the Inc. 500 issue, knows how that feels. The day begins with a bang, is shot through with excitement (and some disappointments), and ends in exhaustion--but with a great deal accomplished. It's no wonder that when we asked this year's Inc. 500 honorees what real or fictional Jack they most identified with, 21 percent named Jack Bauer, the hero of 24. (Hey, just because the questions are fun doesn't mean they don't reveal something.)

Every Inc. 500 issue takes hard work, dedication, and a lot of good cheer on the part of the Inc. staff. This year, we decided to multiply all that by 10 and find not just the 500 fastest-growing privately held companies in America, but the 5,000 fastest-growing companies. You can read about this group here and dive into the full list at Inc.com. The magazine, as usual, provides capsule profiles of each of the top 500 companies.

Some of the many staff members and freelancers who labored long over all these pages are pictured here. Special thanks goes to Rachel Moskovitz, in charge of production at Inc. Production people never get a byline, but if Rachel's contributions carried one, her name would be all over our issues, this one in particular.

More than any other issue of Inc., the 500 is about excellence. The people in it and the people who put it together work hard to excel, and it shows.

Jane Berentson