Location: Plano, Texas
Assets: $478 million
Employees: 78
Chairman and CEO: Mike Barnett

Mike Barnett had other jobs before coming to work for the bank his family owned and saw enough to know the hell of a bad manager. At one place in particular, "I was miserably unhappy because of the boss's attitude," he recalls. "It was, 'Why weren't you at your desk at 8 o'clock?' Check-the-box stuff when I could have been driving my kids to school."

As chairman and chief executive of Benchmark Bank in Dallas, Barnett works hard not to be that guy. Benchmark is like a family — the kind that eats and plays games together. Micromanagement is not part of the culture. "We're not big clock-checkers," Barnett says. "We have a bunch of people here who are friends, as opposed to employees."

The $478 million-asset Benchmark has four Dallas-area branches and another in Austin. Employees get lunch delivered from a local restaurant every Friday, and enjoy competitive fun such as bowling outings and March Madness tournaments. The last two months of the year, a companywide game of blackout bingo — one number is revealed each day — creates a lot of excitement: the winner gets a three-day trip to Cabo San Lucas or the Caribbean. "Visitors always say, 'People seem so happy here,'" Barnett says. It's easy to understand why.

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