Crossroads Contracting has always been open-book, but there's no point in sharing the numbers unless employees understand what they're looking at, owner Jan Jacome says. Determined to educate her staff on how the business runs, she encourages them to go to trade shows, take college classes, and get their professional certifications, all on the company nickel. Five employees have taken the NAHB's CGR prep test, and one has started the Massachusetts licensing program. “We don't do a heck of a lot of work there,” Jacome says, but “he's going to learn from the experience.”

What's key is that all this learning goes into Crossroads Contracting's collective brain trust. At weekly and monthly staff meetings, she has each department report to the others, granting wide latitude in choosing useful topics. As an example, project managers “took us through the whole process” of building an addition, Jacome says. This culminated in a day on which the entire staff built dog houses that they donated to the Humane Society.

Jacome says her gender makes her a good manager and a business magnet. She is generous but firm with staff, sharing profits yet issuing reprimands for disrespectful behavior. “Woman-owned” appears in all marketing, “and the women especially love it,” she says. “They think I'm going to take care of them and pay more attention to details.” She does.