Ed Castle (center) says remodeling isn’t all about craftsmanship; it’s about communication. He learned vital skills as a deejay and owner of a deejay business out of college, at one point coordinating 50 events a week. There, he learned how crucial those first hours are. Was the volume right? The lighting OK? You can’t re-do the wedding reception. “It’s the same thing in remodeling,” Castle says. “You have to sit down and have a daily or weekly huddle. If the client knows what’s going on, they feel more comfortable.”

Managing $20,000 to $40,000 projects that include kitchens, baths, home entertainment systems, and custom millwork, Castle’s easy manner builds trust and friendship, and his employees carry the same tune. One lead carpenter, nicknamed “Bunky” (far left), generates regular client love letters.

Castle carries that communication out further than just his own company. He isn’t bashful about telling peers or subcontractors to boost their markup. He compares a remodeler’s skills and business requirements to a doctor’s. “You’ve got to get people to stop banging their heads against the wall competing against each other, undercutting each other. This is major surgery on a house, and you can’t provide that service unless you earn what you’re entitled to.”