Competition in today's remodeling industry is, in the words of one contractor, a strange thing. Sprawling and largely unregulated, the market is thick with companies of vastly different shapes, sizes, and levels of business acumen.

For upscale companies trying to carve out a finely articulated segment of the high-end market, competing often means keeping pace with peers but running in a slightly different direction.

Noting the need to keep a close eye on the competition, Michael Anschel, a partner in the Minneapolis firm Otogawa-Anschel, says, his company is constantly aware of what its peers are doing.

“At the same time, many of us think of our businesses as different from our peers',” Anschel adds. “Part of it is seeing what they're doing so you can try to make yourself distinct and different.”

Jobsite signs, he says, are a perfect example. “The companies we were most interested in competing with had unique yard signs, so we made the decision to come up with a unique sign. A lot of our competitors' signs had trimmed wood that looked more craftsman-like. Ours is a wedge shape suspended with guy wires,” Anschel says. “It's more architectural and contemporary. It conveys that we're a high-end firm doing more contemporary stuff.”

One Virginia remodeler, who asked to remain anonymous, says the success of his midsize upscale company has, in recent years, been threatened by a much larger competitor that has the resources to employ professional headhunters to poach smaller companies' best talent. “For small companies, it's a struggle to keep up with the compensation that's being offered by larger companies,” he says. “It's a constant battle; labor prices are skyrocketing and so are housing prices. It's getting harder to keep employees who can afford to live close to where we work. You want to run a consistent company, but it's difficult to do that when people have to commute 50 miles.”

The solution, he has learned, is to focus on the intangibles his company provides: benefits, a family-first atmosphere, support for spiritual endeavors. “Every chance you get, every time you get your guys together as a group, you have to talk about the company culture,” he says.