Jake Schloegel (seated, center) wanted to be an entrepreneur, but he wasn’t sure what business to choose. He stumbled into remodeling in 1979 when he purchased equipment from a remodeler he had worked for while in college. “I bought an old wooden step ladder and $300 worth of tools that I had six months to pay for,” he says.

It was when he decided to change the direction of the company from property renovation to residential remodeling that he realized the importance of marketing. Now, he participates in home shows, sends mailings to past customers, and distributes information in neighborhoods where the company is doing a project. In addition, he has hired a public relations firm to promote the company’s design awards.

Schloegel provides design services to homeowners and guides them through the selection process. At the end of a job, he gives homeowners a completion folder that includes a one-year warranty certificate, a punch list, a survey, and a letter explaining the closure process. Five years ago, to emphasize the importance of customer service to his employees, Schloegel started offering an incentive program for his lead carpenters. If they stay on schedule, meet the budget, and present the completion folder to homeowners, they’re paid a percentage of the sale.

To better serve his customers, Schloegel plans to expand the company’s design services and recently hired another salesperson. He is also working with the business department at a local college to develop a 10-year plan for the firm.