Dale Brenke (center, between Jim Hockert, left, and Steve Beetch), an accountant by training, was pumping gas for 50 cents an hour when he went to work for the company he now owns, Schmidt Siding and Window. The company installs seamless steel siding, a gutter protection product, sunrooms, and Renewal by Andersen replacement windows in its Southern Minnesota community. Brenke says he's found that making each product a division enables him to manage the growth.

"We make one person accountable for their product and their division," he says. "So they care whether it's profitable and successful."

Schmidt sends a hefty packet to prospects that includes microwave popcorn and a video that discusses the company and its work. All the company's salespeople are former installers.