The CEOs of Inc. 5000 companies—businesses that grew despite the recession—tend to be a positive bunch. But according to the latest Inc. 5000 Confidence Survey, they are less optimistic about the economy and more optimistic about their businesses.

We surveyed Inc. 5000 CEOs in August, after a particularly volatile week for the financial markets, in which the S&P 500 index rose and fell by more than 4 percent from one day to the next. Twenty percent of respondents said the overall business climate was weak, compared with about 8 percent of respondents in the first quarter. However, 32 percent of respondents said their companies were in very strong shape, up from 25 percent in the first quarter. Seventy-eight percent reported that sales were up in the previous six months compared with the same period last year. As a result, nearly 90 percent of CEOs say they will increase the size of their work force in the next six months.

Among the 601 CEOs who responded to the survey, the biggest concern was economic uncertainty. Many said it made forecasting difficult and was affecting morale. Still, CEOs remained mostly upbeat. "As a leader, it's important to be optimistic," says Andrew Krause, CEO of AKA Media, a creative marketing firm in Chicago. "You must stay positive to maintain employee morale and motivate clients to buy."

For the full survey results and more comments from Inc. 5000 CEOs, go to