After graduating from high school in 1979, Jeff Koch (standing, sixth from left) pestered his father Karl (standing, fifth from right), an employed craftsman, to find side jobs, then strike out on their own. By mid-1980, they were in business. This year, Jeff bought his father out of what is now a 16-employee shop doing 100 jobs a year averaging $15,000.

The company works as a unit. It anticipates customer needs and responds to concerns quickly. Callbacks require same-day visits. The company accounting system helps indicate whether more or less manpower is needed on a job. Staff longevity fuels team spirit; nearly half of the staff has worked at Koch for more than five years.

“You can have big egos with craftsmen,” Jeff says. “Here, there’s a lot of respect for the other guy’s talents.”

Teamwork extends after hours—whether it be saving company supplies from a flooding Cedar River or building birdhouses for a women’s club auction. Jeff describes his business as down-to-earth, but in many ways, it’s state of the art: The staff uses a digital camera and Adobe PhotoShop, for example, to blend home photos with new details to suggest proposed remodels to cients.