Location: Nashville
Assets: $955 million
No. of employees: 120
Chairman and CEO: Ron Samuels

It's not called "the back office" at Avenue Bank. It's called "the heart of the house," and Avenue's executives don't let security workers, loan processors and others who toil behind the scenes forget how important they are to the bank's success.

Avenue's operations director regularly hosts appreciation events, which include visits from a massage therapist and catered breakfasts and lunches.

"The employee around here is No. 1, and we walk our talk. The executives walk our talk," says Judith Locke, formerly Avenue's human resources director and now its executive coach. "We believe that if we treat each other well, then our employees will treat our customers well."

The belief has guided the bank since its founding in 2007. It operates four branches around Nashville.

Every Tuesday morning, employees gather for a staff meeting led by the bank's chairman and CEO, Ron Samuels. They mark anniversaries, relate stories of positive interactions with customers and share whatever is on their minds. Once, an executive humorously explained how to use the bank's unisex bathrooms, Locke says.

"It's like a family gathering," she says. "You never know what's going to happen in that meeting."

Next: First Citizens National Bank

Previous: 1st National Bank

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