When Craig Lord (center) started his construction company in 1980, he had no formal business training. Were he given to cliché, he might say that he instead received his degree from the school of hard knocks. "I basically worked for free my first five years," he says, adding that he struggled to understand his costs and didn't charge what he should have. "Figuring out the business end was my biggest challenge."

It looks like he's got that part licked.

Lord decided that in order to grow, he'd need to do a little reorganization. "I decided to move backward in order to go forward," he says. Lord took one of his lead carpenters and made him a project manager. In 2003, Lord hit $2 million, a year ahead of schedule, which he credits, in part, to a couple of jobs that were bigger than normal.

Lord has five employees who have worked for him for at least five years, including one who's been with the company since 1985. That's a testament to the benefits Lord gives his employees, including profit sharing. "And I'm proud to say that we've had health insurance here since day one," he adds.