The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the best-seller that put a business face on family values, struck a chord among this year's Inc. 500: 30 companies cited Stephen Covey as a key influence on their business.

You could chalk up the trend to the marketing prowess of the Covey Leadership Center, whose sales of books, tapes, and courses landed it on last year's Inc. 500. Covey's teachings on personal principles are nothing new. Yet several companies have testified that Covey has helped them redirect their sales efforts -- by returning to fundamental values.

At Facilities Management, a $10-million government contractor, managers feared that salespeople were selling services without regard to customers' needs. The company created training lectures based on such Covey tenets as "Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood," which emphasizes empathetic listening. The Landover, Md., company, which holds a weekly Covey session, recently landed a $3.5-million contract, and the training was key. "Our people asked the customer more probing questions and listened harder, so the technical proposal was tailored exactly to what the client wanted," says chief operating officer Hal Sharpe.

At Corporate Telemanagement Group, a $56-million long-distance-service provider in Greenville, S.C., the management credits Covey training with keeping sales and operations people from butting heads. Last May the company's president and seven key managers went to Covey's Seven Habits seminar. They returned so charged up that they sent marketing manager Cammie Mackie to a weeklong certification course in Provo, Utah. Now Mackie trains 20 fellow employees each month.

Hall Kinion, a $20-million temp-placement firm in San Jose, Calif., was in crisis last year. Sales manager Donna Martin was struggling to staff her new office, fill job orders, and please customers. "Sales managers can spend entire days reacting to fires and then burn out themselves," notes CEO Brenda Hall, who shipped Martin to Covey's time-management course, First Things First, which focuses on long-term thinking. Upon her return, Martin hired two salespeople to start a permanent-placement division. Since then, Martin's new office has grown from $224,000 in 1994 sales to nearly $1 million in 1995. Meanwhile, 20 other Hall Kinion salespeople have attended Covey seminars.