In my on-going quest for examples of values-based leadership, I occasionally run across companies who understand that exemplary treatment of employees is the key to outstanding customer service and customer relationships. While there are indeed a number of these companies, there are not enough.

Oden is one of these companies.

Oden is a Memphis-based branding consultancy. Their work is good, as validated by such companies as FedEx, International Paper and other Fortune 1000 companies.

But I'm not interested in writing about "good" companies...I'm interested in companies who set examples for putting more emphasis on values than being "good"; I'm interested in companies who practice kindness.

These guys do.

Based on the values of their late founder, Dale Oden, Oden makes it clear what they are all about beginning on their website at Look closely at their links. You'll see links to categories such as culture, where they say " Heck, we'll even give away our secret: having a great culture is not about how cool your offices are, or how many parties you have, or how many benefits you get. It's about attitude. From leaders who have a genuine interest in, and respect for, the people they work with, to positive-thinking employees who love what they do and aren't afraid to be their silly selves "

I like this. This jumped out at me and I wanted to see for myself if the leaders at Oden did indeed have "a genuine interest in and respect for the people they work with". I wish I could tell you how many times I hear this without seeing evidence of it.

I contacted Bill Carkeet, CEO of Oden, and arranged for a tour. With great pride he showed me around their new offices in downtown Memphis.

Following again the values of their founder, Bill told me about how he and his partner, Bret Terwilleger, wanted to design an office layout that reflected respect for employees, were efficient and fun.

Mission accomplished.

From small gathering areas for spontaneous "mini-meetings" to beautiful conference rooms, there are immediate feelings of warmth and professionalism that I have rarely seen.

But the best part of the tour was the lunchroom.

I am not giving enough credit to this area by calling it a lunchroom. As a matter of fact, the gathering place for lunch is named (by the employees, of course) the "Caf