In 1995 John Drew fell ill. At that point he had a decision to make: shut down his remodeling company or make enough changes that he could run his business without sacrificing his health. Obviously, he chose the latter, and that set in motion a transformation from a large company that was handling everything in-house to a lean business with almost no overhead that seems ready for anything.

Now, with Drew in the office as salesperson and designer and a project coordinator in the field, the company completes about 14 or 15 jobs per year—mostly kitchens and baths—with an average price of $21,000. The approach must be working. In 2000, Drew was named remodeler of the year for the third time since 1995. (His customers voted him this honor. In his area, a statistics class at Boise State University sends a survey to past customers of all nominated remodeling companies and the one with the best customer feedback is the winner.)

For Drew, managing customer expectations is the secret to success. He even gives homeowners a video of a kitchen remodel so that they know what to expect when they come home from work on the first day of the job.