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.
Some business books try to teach success in a competitive marketplace. In The Company We Keep, John Abrams shows how a company can flourish as a part of a thriving community of people dependent on one another. His eight cornerstone principles, including employee ownership and long-term thinking, express the entrepreneurial spirit as a potent force for change?with profitable results that extend across multiple bottom lines. Part visionary 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 American business. With a craftsman's eye, a storyteller's sensibility, and a CEO's pragmatism, Abrams brings his experience to bear on the challenges faced by progressive small businesses everywhere.
About the Author
In 1975, John Abrams and his best friend Mitchell Posin ventured to Martha's Vineyard to build a house for John's parents. What began as a summertime detour and a passion for woodworking became permanent residency and business success. Since 1976, John has served as president of South Mountain Company, which, today, has 30 employees (over half of whom share ownership in the business), has designed and built more than 100 major renovation and new housing projects, and earns $6 million in annual revenues.
As a proponent of working for the benefit of people and community, John explores the role of business in promoting community, creating social equity, and maintaining ecological balance. He challenges conventional business concepts: that bigger is better, that profits come first, and that location is incidental. The narratives found in his resonant memoir, The Company We Keep, demonstrate that one can bring high personal values to the workplace, protect natural resources, uphold high standards of craftsmanship, control growth, and still run a successful (and highly collaborative) enterprise.
John and his co-owners have made a long-term commitment to using their business to preserve community and help solve the Vineyard's affordable housing crisis. John is deeply involved in community service. Currently, he chairs the Island Affordable Housing Fund and serves as Vice Chair of the Island Housing Trust. Over the years he has held more than 20 social and civic posts, ranging from municipal boards, transportation task forces, and renewable energy groups, to a variety of affordable housing committees and non-profits. John is a member of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (he was presented with their Lifetime Achievement Award after many years as a board member), Corporation 2020, the North American Timber Framers Guild, and the advisory board of Environmental Building News. He frequently lectures to university audiences, building associations, business groups, and environmental organizations on the topics of affordable housing, socially responsible business, and ecological design and building, and has trained several groups in meeting facilitation and consensus decision-making. John and his co-owners are currently considering several new endeavors to complement South Mountain's core activities.
John's articles about green building and workplace democracy have appeared in national publications such as Business Ethics and Fine Homebuilding. He and South Mountain have been featured, as well, in The New York Times, Cape Cod Life, Custom Home, Designer/Builder, Environmental Building News, The Inspired House, Solar Today, The Martha's Vineyard Times and The Vineyard Gazette. The work of South Mountain Company has appeared in 10 published books, including How Buildings Learn (Viking Press), The Naturally Elegant Home (Little Brown), The Healing House (Hay House), and The Houses of Martha's Vineyard (Monacelli Press). John lives on Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with his wife Chris, in a co-housing neighborhood designed and built by his company.
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