There's something perverse about magazine publishing, at least when it concerns timing. For instance, when other industries are kicking back a bit -- that is, in the summer months -- the magazine world is at full throttle, putting together the biggest issues of the year. This is certainly true at Inc. From where I sit, I can see our production gurus, Rachel Moskovitz and Dominick Santise, bending over their keyboards; senior reporter Kasey Wehrum analyzing data; and our copy editors, Peter McLaughlin and Pam Warren, checking each and every line of manuscript. It's 11 o'clock on a clear July night, and other nights like this have preceded it and will follow.

The issue at hand is the Inc. 500, our annual ranking of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the nation, and I can assure you that the CEOs of these companies are working into the wee hours, too. (One excellent example can be found here.) To rank as No. 500, the logistics company Spinnaker recorded three-year revenue growth of 528.5 percent -- a breathtaking number. Northern Capital Insurance, at the very top of the ranking, grew 19,812.2 percent.

Our reporting uncovered a number of quirky and telling facts about the leaders at these companies. More than a couple wouldn't mind being Superman ("Who wouldn't, if you really could?" asked Derron Winfrey of Electronic Check Services). Hardly any approve of the bailout of the car companies (I wouldn't have thought otherwise). Some of these companies do business together, such as Kiva Systems and And one CEO (Promod Sharma of Criterion Systems) employs people who by law can't tell him exactly what they're working on, an unusual management challenge he seems to have mastered.

Of course, there's much more to the September issue than the 500. Every month, our columnists bring you stories from their frontlines, and this month they are in particularly fine fettle. So in your eagerness to see who made the 500 or read about the No. 1 companies in each industry, don't skip over Street Smarts, How Hard Could It Be?, and Balancing Acts. Writing with humor and the savvy of a fellow traveler, Norm, Joel, and Meg are hard to beat.