Some company owners run their operations like small dictatorships. More Than A Carpenter functions along the lines of an old-fashioned commune whose members share responsibility rather than property. “We inspire one another to do better,” John Ferguson (standing front, center, with wife, Kay) says.

Thirteen years ago, Ferguson, a one-time pastor, resigned from a troubled church, bought a set of tools at Sears, and began doing handyman projects to support his family. Today, what he calls his “stewardship” is a Bay area remodeling firm that does everything from small jobs to six-figure remodels. Last year More Than A Carpenter generated close to $2 million in highly profitable sales.

Ferguson’s style of bottom-up management puts the success or failure of the company in employee hands. The focus is involvement at every level. Though crews may be working at five different locations, everyone “comes down out of the hills” to meet somewhere for lunch every day. That’s one way to build a sense that “we’re all in this together and we all succeed or fail together.”