Andrew Field's success was born out of desperation. In 1998 his printing company was broke. On the verge of closing the business, Field dreamed up a new way to sell commercial printing services over the Internet. In the process, he transformed a fundamentally local company into one that knows no geographic boundaries. Last year (#285) made $4.2 million in sales, up 810% in five years.

It's just those sorts of pivotal changes that pepper the landscape of Inc 500 life stories. For entrepreneurs, it's not that the best-laid plans often go awry -- although they do, all the time. It's that when they do, determined CEOs turn circumstances to their advantage. Just like Andrew Field -- and like the CEOs on the following pages, who all found growth in painful, risky, necessary choices.

Best-Laid Plans

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