Sal Ferro is the president of Alure Home Improvement, Hicksville, N.Y. As the leader of that dynamic company, it's up to him to grow his staff into strategic thinkers and to cultivate leaders within the company. A key to the company's success is his investment in training. "There is an ongoing spirit of training and education within our organization," Ferro says. "It's a nonstop issue."

Each year, Ferro or his top managers meet with each employee to complete a needs assessment that drives the training for that person. At least one full week of training is planned and budgeted for each employee. "We train everyone — from the delivery person to the heads of the company," Ferro says. "And while we work from a budget, this is one line item that I would bust anytime if a great education opportunity presented itself."

Some type of training is going on within the company during every week of the year, whether it's product training or education focused on the management side of the business. At least half of the instruction focuses on a person's ability to interact with others. "My managers have to understand people much more than they need to know product," Ferro says. "Some of my best managers aren't the most organized, or the ones with the most product knowledge . . . but they know how to affect their people in a positive way. They understand how to get people to want to succeed for them. They know how to keep the lines of communication open. I judge people on these abilities."

While much of their teaching is done with their own resources, there is no hesitation to invest in other resources if it's called for. "I'm a big fan of training from outside the industry," Ferro says. "All of our managers have attended at least one Dale Carnegie class."

This dedication to education and training has paid off handsomely. Last year, Alure sold $25 million and ended the year with a substantial profit.

Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, Fulton, Md. (301) 490-5620,