One of the best incentives for ambitious people is opportunity. Sharon Anderson Wright, president of Half Price Books, a $56 million chain of discount bookstores that has its headquarters in Dallas, fills management positions by promoting from within, ensuring that long-term employees have a chance to rise -- and that new employees have an incentive to stay. "It's dancing with the ones that brought you," says Wright.

Firmani and Associates, a public relations firm in Seattle, provides a well-defined career track, with specific criteria for raises and advancement. For example, employees that bill 1,200 hours a year and make two new business contacts know exactly how much their salaries will increase as a result.

This article was adapted from material that first appeared in Inc. magazine in November 1997.