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The Company We Keep: Reinventing Small Business for People, Community, And Place by John AbramsI think it was in researching employee ownership or growth that I first came across and read about Marthas’s Vineyard based The South Mountain Company. From an article SMC owner Jon Abrams wrote in the Journal of Light Construction entitled Taking the Pain Out of Growth I must have googled his company to learn more. On their website I read THE SMC STORY and felt there was lot in SMC I could model the company I would want to build after.

I don’t recall now how I stumbled across it but last week I found out that John Abrams had written a book on his company called The Company We Keep: Reinventing Small Business for People, Community, and Place and I ordered it right away. During my coffee break earlier this morning I started the book and read the Forward and the first chapter entitled Cornerstones. While I’m going to make every effort to read this book as fast as I can I think it’s going to take me a while. For me at least I think there is going to be a lot in the book to highlight, notate, and think about.

Right there at the start of the book was a passage that spoke to me:

“Along the way, as we have become a part of this place, we have come to sense that we are not only at the beginning, that our endeavors— and our company—may have, or can aspire to have, some of the enduring qualities of qualities of the buildings we fashion.”I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have built some very artistic and beautiful projects that I know will be there a hundred years from now but what has eluded me till know is being able to build “a company” that with that same kind of enduring quality.

A few passages later Jon Abrams goes on to write:

” ….We not only build houses, we build connections and bonds between people, between people and land, and between commerce and place. We are organized around the idea of maintaining and perpetuating an ongoing business community. We think we are crafting a company to keep.

I think that may be the key. It’s about building connections and bonds between people, land, their homes, and commerce.

Jon Abrams describing how he learned about and discovered the cornerstones of his business ideology:

The stone mason sorts through a pile of material to find just the right stones for the base, the corners, the fillers, the stretcher that lock the wall together, and the capstones to finish it off. he discovers the wall as he builds it, as I found the cornerstones of our business”

About Growth:

At South Mountain we favor certain kinds of growth, but not expansion for it’s own sake, which author Edward Abbey described as ‘the ideology or the cancer cell’…
….When we grow it is intention rather than in response to demand. We think about “enough” rather than “more” — enough profits to retain and share, enough compensation for all, enough health and well-being, enough time to give our work the attention it deserves, enough communication, enough to manage, enough to headaches”

All this from just the first chapter.

Ya know how every once in a while you crack open a book and in reading the first chapter you get real excited and start to think wow this is going to be great. Well, I think this is one of them. I know there some people here who will really hate this book (maybe that’s why I like it so much) but I also can think of many more people here who I know who will really identify and appreciate it.

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J. Jerrald Hayes
Primus Inter Pares at Paradigm Projects, Ltd.
I am an architectural woodworker and general contractor turned IT, Business and Project Management consultant, software developer wannabe senior division triathlete and ski racer, Yankee fan and founder of, 360 Difference, and now too.
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