Third-generation builder Kelly Vogan (seated, right) considers “my employees my internal customers.” He treats them with the same respect he gives to the homeowners who pay him upward of $250,000 a project. The hyperkinetic D.C. market allows no room for a labor shortage, so he constantly tweaks pay and benefits to remain competitive. He welcomes employees' input, too, and hands out $20 bills for good ideas.

“I want employees to feel they have a home and they don't want to go anywhere else,” he says. It seems they don't. His best lead carpenter came aboard 34 years ago, when Vogan was a child and the company (then called Samson Limited) was his father's.

Vogan Associates grew 60% in 2004, but this year's goal is closer to 10%. Vogan notes that rapid growth “doesn't allow you to focus on what you do best, and that is doing one job at a time per lead carpenter and focusing on profitability.” Yet he admits that “slower, controlled growth” will be a challenge, thanks to the kitchen and bath division he just launched. “We're already swamped.”