You could win free Motley Fool gear by leaving a comment below. We're announcing 12 contests in 12 hours, so check back at Fool.com for more chances to win.

Last month, I sent an email to a select group of public companies. I had a simple request for them to answer three questions:

  1. What steps have you taken to navigate your business through the economic turmoil of the past 12 months?
  2. What are the top two or three metrics to which your business pays the closest attention?
  3. Now that the first decade of the new century is drawing to a close, we'd like to take a moment to reflect on what lies ahead. What excites you most about your business?

I thought these questions, a mix of review and preview, would be relevant to investors (and prospective investors). The answers I received ranged from thought-provoking to ho-hum. (Check out this exemplary response from Morningstar (NASDAQ:MORN).)

Today, I want to know the one question you would ask of a chief executive officer. The person with the best comment (as determined by a panel of Fool editors) will win free Motley Fool gear.

The contest rules are here, but otherwise, there are no ground rules. My questions were broad and company-generic; yours can be particular and company-specific. They can be earnest or serious -- but the answer would have to reveal something of value for investors. For instance, in Roger & Me style, you could ask ...

  • ... Executives at Eastman Kodak (NYSE:EK) why they missed out on 2009's rally, and what they're doing about it.
  • ... The embattled leader of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), Lloyd Blankfein, if he wishes his firm had remained a private partnership instead of going public.
  • ... Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Steve Jobs and Ford's (NYSE:F) Alan Mulally, very simply: How do they plan on keeping it up?
  • ... Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK-B) Warren Buffett: O ye Oracle, what do you see in store for 2010?

There's no limit on how many questions you can ask, although the winner will be selected for a single question, not a series of queries. The contest will be open until 8:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 17, and again, we'll be mailing the winner a care package full of Fool gear.

The best comment posted in the below comments section (in fewer than 250 words) will win -- and I will also personally email the winning question to the company of your choice.

Brian Richards is the online managing editor at The Motley Fool. Brian does not own shares of any companies mentioned. Apple, Morningstar, and Berkshire are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Berkshire is also an Inside Value selection. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire and Morningstar and has a disclosure policy that does not mess around.