This is in response to Management Lessons from Small Companies.
Having worked for several small companies, I can tell you that your observations are very accurate. The only other advantage I would suggest is that employees have a much greater opportunity to take on additional critical job duties or projects that are not being undertaken which can be very beneficial to the company and their careers.
Bosses are typically very receptive to allowing an employee to take on such duties, even when it is outside of their job description.
However, I would suggest that your conclusion ( ... invest in employees and earn a return from that), though very important, is unfortunately too simple to be true. It all starts with having a well-engineered and quality product or service that is sold into the correct markets which can be produced in an efficient and cost effective way.
That is what leads to good company financial performance. The examples you mentioned of how companies help employees understand the key financial measures and regularly track such measures are excellent ones.
In the end, it is much easier for top management to invest in its employees when there is good company financial performance. It would be interesting to find out if the high level of investment in employees for the majority of the 50 companies would continue if their financial performance decreased.
Hopefully, it would remain the same or decrease only slightly.