In Mark Labourdette’s office hangs a list of his five principles for success: focus on business fundamentals, know your customer, define your niche, learn and adapt, and respond to the market. These fundamentals have helped him grow the two-person handyman business he started as a high school student in 1979 into a major player in Bay area insurance restoration.

He attributes that growth to his systematic approach. Among his many vital systems, the most important is hiring quality people. “Hire for attitude, not ability,” Labourdette says. “You can teach ability, but you can’t teach attitude.”

Another important system is his integrated, networked software that handles everything from scheduling to accounting. The program also maintains the 500 person mailing list for the company’s marketing newsletter, which Labourdette uses to generate business, he says. And his network has recently expanded outside the office with Palm Pilots used for on-site estimating of his jobs, which average $8,800.

Labourdette even has a system for ensuring that favorite clients never forget his company. He sends them a bottle of Dom Perignon.