As the study of matter and energy in balance, Mike Staffileno (right) couldn’t have chosen a better industry than remodeling to use his physics degree. “There’s an element of creativity in physics, and it’s also good to have the knowledge base for calculating loads on the additions we do,” he says.

Running a business is also an exercise in physics. Staffileno uses skills he learned from his father to keep Chagrin River Co. small and smart. After the first five years, the company stopped doing small projects and landscaping. “We determined there were certain areas we wanted to work in,” he says. “Since then, we’ve stayed focused and never looked back.”

Today, Staffileno manages sales and a new handyman service. Subcontracted labor and on-staff project manager Jim Parsons (left) keep the company balanced near $1 million. “Early on I had some guys working for me who left because they knew we could do more work if we did lower-end jobs,” he says, “but I made a decision to do the work I wanted to do and not try to be someone else.”

Best Practices

  • Developed a handyman division in 2009 to offset a drop in high-end remodeling. The division currently does $5,000 to $10,000 of work per month. 
  • The company is virtually debt-free. 
  • Staffileno focuses the marketing budget on sending 300 postcards every two weeks to guarantee calls for new business and handyman work, compared with magazine print ads that only yield one or two calls a year. 
  • Accurate estimating keeps slippage at 2% or less. 
  • Benefits include health insurance, life insurance, 401(k) with company contribution of 2% of wages annually, profit sharing, and truck.

- Lauren Hunter