If your workforce understands your business goals, you're more likely to achieve them. And if you give employees an easy way to track how well the business is achieving its goals, they'll be motivated to earn a share in the results. That's why increasing numbers of entrepreneurial companies are using some type of periodic bonuses tied to a company scoreboard -- whether it's posted in the hallway or electronically on the company intranet.

At Elements IV Interiors -- a Dayton, Ohio, office furniture dealer that had 1998 revenues of $7.2 million -- the scoreboard is a simple cartoon that hangs in the employee break room. The cartoon shows a flamingo climbing a ladder to a diving board over an aboveground pool. Every month, support services manager Heather Patrick tapes the "water level" onto a scale on the side of the pool. That's the company's year-to-date net profit. Employees are learning that the profit level determines how much is available in another important pool -- their own bonus pool.

Bruce LaVielle and Kim Duncan, the owners of Elements IV, knew they couldn't pursue net profits without keeping a watchful eye on another number -- shipments of Haworth Furniture, the company's primary product line. If Haworth sales ever tank, their company risks losing its valuable franchise. So the ladder to the diving board is also a scale representing Haworth Furniture sales. Every month, Patrick moves the flamingo up the ladder; the flamingo's foot marks the progress. If the flamingo reaches the top of the ladder and dives into a full pool, then Elements IV has met both of its key goals, and employees get a quarterly bonus.