In this issue of Inc., you'll meet a man who created his company as a work of art. You'll hear from the famous son of a famous family who is building an organization with values that honor his ancestors. You'll also read about the CEO of a VC-backed fast-growth company whose commitment to financial transparency is extraordinary.

These three company leaders are part of a special report that's the result of a new partnership between Inc. and Winning Workplaces, a Chicago-based nonprofit that for eight years has given out the Top Small Company Workplaces awards. The recipients of these awards - this year there are 20 winners and 20 finalists - are companies that truly put people first. Employees at these businesses are seen as the most precious asset, and they are treated accordingly, with generous health care policies, flexible work schedules, green environments, and an open-book approach to finances. At one company, the employees read Jim Collins together; at others they pore over balance sheets. Vacation policies are generous; family needs are accommodated.

All of the businesses on our list of Top Small Company Workplaces are profitable; most have grown over the past several years, despite the tough economy. Ask the CEOs why they have done so well, and they point to their people. They argue that strong bottom-line performance derives naturally from a happy work force. The various tenets of this philosophy - and the proof that it actually works - can be found in the our special 32-page report, which starts on page 55.

A nice complement to that package is a story written by Tony Hsieh, CEO of the online retailer Zappos and one of the most articulate proponents of the happiness-infused workplace. He gives Inc. readers an inside look at why he decided to sell his company to Amazon.

We are pleased to publish these stories of CEOs who have dedicated much of their thinking, energy, and money to creating places in which employees are held in esteem and their labor is honored. There are lessons here for all of us.