From the beginning, it seems that Rick Pratt (third from left) was destined to work for himself. "I was an entrepreneur at 11," Pratt says, recalling his days as a paper boy. "I learned about selling, cash flow, money collection; it was a fabulous business model."

So it came as no surprise to him that when he was working as a carpenter, his last boss told him, right before firing him, that he'd be better off starting his own company. "From his perspective, I was talented enough and smart enough to do it," Pratt says. "I just wasn't as respectful of my supervisors as I needed to be."

He was right about the first part at least, as Pratt has maneuvered his company through difficult times, making outstanding -- yet difficult -- management decisions along the way. In 1995, the business had grown too big, and Pratt made major cutbacks, laying off his entire office staff and keeping just two field workers. Slowly, he built it back up, hitting $1 million in volume in 2001. For the past five years, the company has grown 25% per year, with no slippage.

Recently, Pratt changed the company name from CC&A Construction and put renewed energy into marketing. Those extra dollars have gone toward a sophisticated Web site, job signs, fliers, and even a newsletter. The campaign has brought in new customers to supplement a strong client base.