This is Bill Shaw’s fourth recession as a remodeler, and he believes those who survive it will do so by embracing the Internet, adapting quickly, and “getting the right people on the bus,” even if they must rebuild their staffs to do so. Shaw (front, right) has taken all those actions. As a mentor and teacher to other remodelers, he encourages them to do the same. “I coach and mentor about five different remodeling companies,” he says, along with teaching classes through several industry associations. “You just have to make time for things,” he says of these commitments.

Shaw’s training as an engineer and naval officer fostered his systematic approach to improvement. When he left the Navy, he started a handyman company that quickly evolved toward larger remodeling projects. More recently, he and co-owner Shawn Vacek (front, left) have re-embraced smaller projects while nurturing relationships with banks, consultants, vendors, and an informal “board of advisers” that provide strategy and guidance.


  • Early embrace of creative marketing and business practices. Launched business using unusual door hanger. Developed 3-D modeling software 10 years ago. 
  • Search engine optimization, Google ads, Web analytics. 
  • Performed companywide SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis after 21 years in business. 
  • Aggressive lead tracking. 
  • Informal board of advisers. 
  • Two-tiered bonus program based on break-even budget and gross profit of individual jobs.

Notable quote: “As we get older, we’d better become more adaptive. It’s a real lure to get comfortable, sit on our ways, not embrace change. Nothing will kill you faster in this market today.”

- Leah Thayer