The following eight people in key employee positions are not necessarily the best of the best — there's no way to judge that — but they are at the top of their game. They've worked in their positions long enough to surpass benchmarks, satisfy clients and co-workers, and feel confident and happy with their work; in other words, they have thrived in their jobs and set standards that others might wish to follow.

Yet, in every case, it's evident that their success comes from “without” as well as from within: Each of these employees has been given a certain amount of autonomy by the company owner; each has backup and support from colleagues; each has had training and experience in his or her field, which can be passed on to others; and each buys into the company's culture and vision.

Gatekeeper Laura Lurcott
Hudson Valley Preservation
Sherman, Conn.

If you see a remodeling project as starting with a phone call, you might want to have Laura Lurcott on the receiving end of the phone line. Bright, warm, and upbeat, Lurcott has been with HVP for nearly eight years, four of them in the gatekeeper role, which she developed for the company with consultant Joe Dellanno of My Design/Build Coach in Boston.

Laura Lurcott
Laura Lurcott

“One of the primary parts of the gatekeeper system is to build a relationship with prospects by building trust and respect,” Lurcott says. “I ask them what they're looking for and why they called this company. This gives them a chance to say something good about the company and affirm themselves.” Lurcott, who is caring and flexible by nature, gets people to share their fears and past experiences with remodeling and talk about what's working in their house — “How their house functions for them in order to zero in on what their real need is.” “Laura's the kind of person who makes you feel good when you talk to her on the phone,” company owner Mason Lord says, adding that a gatekeeper must be engaging, but also tough. “Laura asks a lot of questions. Not all of them are comfortable. She is able to talk about money and to find out the real problems. The gatekeeper needs to have some guts.”

He adds that Lurcott “goes above and beyond what her role is.” She works closely with other members of the team and has been accompanying Lord on sales calls, helping clients with selections and financial decisions. Lurcott is also a mentor, teaching the gatekeeping role to others from around the country through Dellanno's My Design/Build Coach courses. Lord admits that the next step would be for Lurcott to move into sales and have someone else do the gatekeeping, but HVP is not quite ready for that.