Given that it made its way onto the tongues of most Americans during the recent military efforts in Iraq, "shock and awe" is not a phrase most contractors want clients to associate with remodeling their homes.

However, that's the term that one colleague uses for the strategy that Mike DiFabion employs to keep customers' expectations low and their satisfaction high.

"I find out if they've remodeled before," says the owner of DiFabion Remodeling in Charlotte, N.C. If they haven't, then they aren't familiar with the hardships. Unreasonable expectations lead to unhappy clients, so DiFabion makes sure his potential clients are aware of everything that can go wrong.

The idea is that the project can't possibly go as badly as he tells them it will. He even manipulates the time frame of the project. "If I think it's going to take three months, I'll tell them five," DiFabion says. This gives him some breathing room and sets the stage for a great reaction when he finishes the project "early."

He closes this part of the presentation by saying something to the effect of, "There are going to be days when you despise me."

Maybe that's true, but if it is, those days aren't many. DiFabion notes that his business comes almost exclusively from referrals. DiFabion says that he recently had an appointment with a detective in the local police force. After a brief discussion, DiFabion handed the man a list of references three pages long, encouraging him to check up on the company's reputation.

Two months later, the phone rang. "Mike," DiFabion recalls the detective saying, "if there's anyone who knows what kind of questions to ask, it's me. I've called every one of these references, and I can't get one of them to give me an answer I'm uncomfortable with."

Needless to say, DiFabion got the job.