Cool, hopeful, determined, and ready. That's how I'd describe the self-portrait small business paints as it looks at 1982. (Whether hopeful enough to do the job the country needs, I discuss in The Buck Stops Here on page 124.) You can write your own description after you read INC.'s first "Small Business Outlook" survey that begins on page 31.

We used two methods to conduct our survey. First we analyzed the answers to a six-page questionnaire we received from 2,000 INC. subscribers. They represent about as good a cross-section of small business as we've yet seen.

Next we looked at the transcripts from three INC. Economic Outlook Forums held in Phoenix (October 7, 1981), Chicago (October 16), and Boston (November 2). Some of the participants are pictured on this page. About 50 small businesspeople joined a dozen or so economists, bankers, accountants, and venture capitalists in these wide-ranging sessions. We're grateful for everyone's time and help.

This survey was not an attempt to evaluate the Reagan program or supply-side economics. We're at least a year away from being able to do that fairly. But we don't have to wait a year to find out what you think should happen with the nation's economy.

We conducted the survey for three reasons. First, we wanted to help small businesspeople compare 1982 strategies. Second, we hoped to translate the flood of data on the general economic outlook into information more relevant to the small business sector. Finally, we wanted to know what small businesspeople felt they needed from public policy makers -- and how needs that go unmet would limit the ability of small business to help reverse the downturn.

We think you'll find the survey results useful as you plan for '82. In the past year, we've done our best to help you with your financial planning. If you missed our November report on banks, for example, or didn't read it carefully, take another look. It let you know how bankers think about small companies, suggested ways of dealing with them, and provided specific tips -- like telling you how to decide whether to take a cash discount from a supplier.

In 1982, you'll see more of the same kind of articles -- those that provide you with the solid information you need for planning and running your business. If you're not yet computer literate, for instance, 1982 is the year it has to happen. We'll continue to help on that front.

In terms of the general economy, our philosophical commitment is clear. Other publications take the line that "What's good for all business is good enough for small business." Our message is different. We think "What's best for small business is best for all business."

We're all after what's best for our country. We'll keep arguing your case as well as we can. But you have to win it for us by the job you do.

Season's greetings and Happy New Year.