Michael Houar’s MBA thesis, due this fall, examines what it takes to be a remodeling leader in his archipelagic state. The company owner has lived his case study, transforming a vinyl siding business into a full-service remodeling company with average jobs of $30,000 and divisions on three islands. And he’s succeeded in a flat economy, one more in line with Asian markets than those stateside.

The transformation from single-trade to multitrade shop came courtesy of Hurricane Iniki, which nailed Kauai in 1992. Destroyed homes offered 15 years of siding work. Competitors swept in, then disappeared, leaving Houar’s Kauai Vinyl Siding & Contracting with volume half that of pre-hurricane levels. Houar (standing, third from left) knew that if he didn’t adjust, he wouldn’t make it. “We had to add members to the team who could do more than siding,” he says. “Adding people in a small company is a big risk.”

With able staff—spurred by profit sharing, bonuses, flex time, and stock for the extremely motivated—he sought new markets on Maui, through Valley Isle Vinyl & Remodeling, and on Oahu, through Hawaiian Repair and Remodeling.

Now, with his companies entrenched in their markets, Houar hopes to consolidate under a well-earned banner: Hawaiian Repair and Remodeling.