The numbers say the economy is growing. But what does that look like on the ground? To take the pulse of the recovery, we polled our Inc. 500|5000 community of CEOs on their views about the economy, hiring trends, and prospects for their companies. The result is the first of what we are calling the Inc. 5000 Confidence Survey, a quarterly poll created to provide helpful snapshots of the outlook for fast-growing companies and the entrepreneurial economy.

What we found in our initial survey, conducted from February 18 to 24, is a group of entrepreneurs who remain highly skeptical of the strength of the overall economy but whose businesses are, for the most part, surging. Most CEOs—85 percent—reported sales growth so far this year. Nearly 95 percent said they are not laying off workers, though hiring has remained somewhat restrained. "I am being forced to work in my business a bit more lately, because I do not want to overhire," said Sheri Stoltenberg, CEO of Stoltenberg Consulting, a health care IT firm in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania.

Among the 462 CEOs who responded to the survey, the biggest concern was that clients remain slow to say yes. Bill Bradfield, CEO of Cleveland-based Perceptis, which provides help-desk services, said he had to "overcome client fears about the future of the economy."

On the whole, though, Inc. 500|5000 CEOs are upbeat. More than 80 percent reported that their businesses are in strong or very strong shape and are poised to grow in the months ahead. Below, a sampling of the survey results.


For full survey results and more extensive Inc. 500|5000 CEO comments, go to