Over the years, Inc. has developed close relationships with a number of very smart entrepreneurs. Some speak at our conferences, some become columnists, and some we turn to when we need a shot of clear thinking and great advice. Jack Stack, who runs a Missouri company called SRC Holdings, has been a friend of Inc.'s for many years. He and longtime Inc. writer Bo Burlingham have co-written two books, one of which, The Great Game of Business, is on our 30th-anniversary list of the books that should sit on every entrepreneur's bookshelf (www.inc.com/30years). Jack is also the guru of open-book management and a very smart businessman.

This month, with everyone's mind on the recession and a lot of company owners (and employees) concerned about the future, we decided to find out how Jack has managed to avoid layoffs at his company even in the worst of times. In a wide-ranging talk with Bo, Jack describes a strategy that derives much of its strength from a kind of controlled paranoia. (There's that word again. In our cover story last month, the author Jim Collins opined that in times like these, "we need to have a complete, realistic paranoia.") Jack and Bo's conversation, which begins here, gets into the specifics of how Jack's version of paranoia can be turned into a tool for dynamic company growth. Read "Plan B" and see for yourself.

I would also like to draw your attention to our cover story on the online retailer Zappos. Inc. first wrote about Zappos in 2004, when the company landed at No. 15 on the Inc. 500 with three-year growth of 4,461 percent and revenue of $52.6 million. Zappos has appeared on the Inc. 500 three more times since then and last year had sales of more than $1 billion. But this is much more than just a big, fast-growing company. Thanks to its deeply innovative and extraordinarily thoughtful CEO, Tony Hsieh, Zappos is what our story calls "one of the most blissed-out businesses in America." Like Jack Stack, Tony Hsieh is an employee-first kind of CEO. That's a blessing at any time.