Manhattan is no typical city, and Rusk Renovations is no typical remodeling company. With a 35-page “best practices” manual governing all aspects of in-house and contracted work, and projects in apartments priced from $3 million to $26 million, including several in the storied Plaza Hotel, “we want to create a business that works against the stereotype” that many people have of contractors, says founder John Rusk.

This reality unfolds in aggressive project management that frees busy clients from hands-on oversight and brings in jobs “on time and on budget” (part of the company’s motto and the title of Rusk’s influential book published in 1996). The company’s business model is based on carefully matching clients’ programs, budgets, and tastes with the right architect; sales calls attended by highly specialized trade contractors; and a reputation for “value engineering” every project to reduce costs.

And then there are the employees. Since Rusk’s wife, Mary Kocy, joined the firm four years ago, an intense focus on workforce development has cultivated a thriving and highly trained international team. HR programs cover areas such as safety, problem-solving, and team-building, collectively helping the company meet its goal of “delivering outstanding service and quality to clients in a way that they truly enjoy,” Rusk says.

- Leah Thayer