After college, Clint Howes says he thought he “wanted to be a corporate citizen, [but he got] disillusioned with the loss of autonomy.” He found that his true passion lay in being directly responsible to a customer. Coming from a DIY family, building “was the natural canvas for doing this,” he says.

Howes grew a 10-person company with a million-plus volume, but when the downturn hit, he pared down completely. Happy in the field, he’s now a one-man operation, works fewer hours, takes home more money, and focuses on historic homes, millwork, and intricate jobs.

But Howes isn’t totally alone. He paired with five other remodelers — “three young, ambitious remodelers who want to grow and two who have been around awhile and are managing their way down,” he says. He works particularly closely with one of the five; they work side by side in the field and share rewards and profits. “Plus,” Howes says, “if my kid is sick and I can’t make it, he still shows up and the job keeps moving.” The person who gets the job is the lead and client contact, but they get the benefit of all the trade professionals. “We’re sort of co-chairs on what happens,” Howes says.

Alone Again, Naturally  Clint Howes likes his autonomy, but he has turned the idea of competition on its head — profiting by working closely with other remodelers.