Ten years ago, South Mountain Company, John Abrams's design-build firm on Martha's Vineyard, didn't exactly need fixing. After a few years of doing good, if sometimes unprofitable, work (one friend of Abrams called the money-losing jobs "subsidized housing for the rich"), Abrams had learned how to run a viable business. He liked his work, did it well, and he was making money. Nevertheless, Abrams at that point made a change some would consider radical: He switched from an S corporation wholly owned by himself to an employee-ownership structure, in which longterm employees could buy in and share the company's management and profits. At first this meant sharing ownership with two other people; then three, then four.
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