JANUARY 1990

When managers of growing companies begin to focus on their own corners of the universe, camaraderie gets lost and communication mix-ups mount. Such was the case at Phoenix Textile Corp., a 56-employee institutional linens distributor based in St. Louis.

To stave off future miscommunications, CEO Palmer Reynolds began hosting monthly breakfasts with the president. She invites five different employees -- one from each department -- each month to join her at a local restaurant. "I learned how well we thought we were communicating and how much we weren't," Reynolds says.

"People get to know me. I get to know them. They get to know each other and, most important, what each other does," she says. On a recent morning outing, the sales department learned that the production department also had quotas to meet. As a result, the two groups ended a longstanding tug-of-war. Such direct communications have helped contribute to Phoenix's growth from $1.43 million in 1983 to $24 million in 1989.