Companion Systems' mission statement is four words long: "Happy customers; happy employees."

The slogan has been powerful enough to help John Hansen, Al Tiley, Sally Tiley and Diane Williams lead the company from millions of dollars in debt to millions of dollars in profit.

Companion Systems was founded in North Salt Lake by cousins Ralph Merrill and Dennis Merrill to manufacture branded surrounds and other accessories for automatic-teller machines. By the late 1990s, the company was selling to clients across the country.

A venture-capital company came calling then with a five-year plan for the business. The Merrills sold Companion Systems to the firm, but the plan didn't work, plunging the business $24 million into debt.

Hansen, the Tileys and Williams faced a formidable task when they took over: They had to buy all the company's outstanding stock and assume all the debt. No revenue seemed to be coming in. The entire sales staff quit.

Employees agreed to take pay cuts, with senior staff members' cuts the deepest and lowest-level employees the smallest. Al Tiley worked with the company's bank, and all the leaders cajoled suppliers into continuing deliveries on credit.

The company began to recover, and in 2004, Companion became profitable and has been in the black ever since. Annual sales have soared more than 300 percent.

And the employees? The company now offers them profit sharing.