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The Company We Keep: Reinventing Small Business for People, Community, and Placeby John Abrams
Synopses & Reviews
Socially responsible investments have grown exceptionally in the same year that "moral values" determined a presidential election. So why has business been so slow to catch on? In a new book, The Company We Keep, small business owner and entrepreneur John Abrams makes a case for a return to workplace values, and shows how we can ultimately profit by them.
The Company we Keep is more than the success story of a revolutionary company. It sets down a framework for a model of employee ownership and community involvement that has piqued the interest of entrepreneurs around the country. In the words of Abrams, "This is a book about a different way of doing business in today's world--a way based on workplace democracy, shared ownership, staying small, building community, commitment to a place, and long term thinking."
John Abrams founded the South Mountain Company, a design and building firm, on Martha's Vineyard more than thirty years ago. Through a commitment to place and community entrepreneurship, he has seen the company grow and prosper, while at the same time experimenting with a revolutionary employee ownership model that has challenged the traditional business rhetoric of unchecked growth.
There is a revolution going on in corporate America, and social entrepreneurship is leading the way. Rejecting the myth that short-term profits are the only indicator of business health and wealth, John Abrams shows how building a company to serve the needs of people (employees and owners), community, and the environment can be a successful business plan as well. Part entrepreneurial business plan, part guide to democratizing the workplace, and part prescription for strong local economies, The Company We Keep marks the debut of an important new voice in the literature of American business.
Part memoir and part examination of a new business model, the 2005 release of The Company We Keep marked the debut of an important new voice in the literature of American business. Now, in Companies We Keep, the revised and expanded edition of his 2005 work, John Abrams further develops his idea that companies flourish when they become centers of interdependence, or "communities of enterprise."
Thoroughly revised with an expanded focus on employee ownership and workplace democracy, Companies We Keep celebrates the idea that when employees share in the rewards as well as the responsibility for the decisions they make, better decisions result. This is an especially timely topic. Most of the baby boomer generation—the owners of millions of American businesses— will retire within the next two decades. In 2001, 50,000 businesses changed hands. In 2005, that number rose to 350,000. Projections call for 750,000 ownership transitions in 2009. Employee ownership—in both the philosophical and the practical sense—is gathering steam as businesses change hands, and Abrams examines some of the many ways this is done.
Companies We Keep is structured around eight principles—from "Sharing Ownership" and "Cultivating Workplace Democracy" to "Thinking Like Cathedral Builders" and "Committing to the Business of Place"—that Abrams has discovered in the 32 years since he cofounded South Mountain Company on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Together, these principles reveal communities of enterprise as a potent force of change that can—and will— improve the way Americans do business.
About the Author
JOHN ABRAMS is co-founder and president of South Mountain Company, a design/build and renewable energy company on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. In 1987, South Mountain Company was restructured to become employee-owned, and so began the adventure that led Abrams to write his first book, The Company We Keep: Reinventing Small Business for People, Community, and Place. With added experience and research, Abrams has revised the book, renamed Companies We Keep: Employee Ownership and the Business of Community and Place, so that it can better serve as a primer for employee-ownership. In 2005 Business Ethics magazine awarded South Mountain its National Award for Workplace Democracy.WILLIAM GREIDER is the national affairs correspondent for The Nation and the author of a number of best-selling books including The Soul of Capitalism
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Cornerstones
Chapter 2: Cultivating Workplace Democracy
Chapter 3: Challenging the Gospel of Growth
Chapter 4: Balancing Multiple Bottom Lines
Chapter 5: Committing to the Business of Place
Chapter 6: Celebrating the Spirit of Craft
Chapter 7: Advancing People Conservation
Chapter 8: Practicing Community Entrepreneurism
Chapter 9: Thinking Like Cathedral Builders
Chapter 10: The Company We Keep
1. South Mountain Employee Ownership Particulars
2. Meeting Facilitation and Consensus Decision Making
3. South Mountain Company's Vineyard Future Sketch
Selected Bibliography and Resources
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