When Michael Wilkinson owned a small remodeling company, he worked, he says, probably 15 hours a day “doing all the work in the field and in the evenings going out on estimates, seeing people, writing up contracts and bids. Eight years of that.”

Once he got married and started a family, he wanted his nights and weekends back. That's when he decided to work for Hopkins & Porter, a high-end design/build remodeling company in Potomac, Md.

Wilkinson, and other former remodeling business owners like him, make ideal employees. “They understand something about business and appreciate having only one job to do instead of wearing a lot of different hats,” says H&P vice president Mike Denker who, over the years, has hired former owners to manage small divisions within the company. Wilkinson began as a project manager/lead carpenter and is now the chief estimator.

The important thing to think about when hiring these candidates, says Peter Pagenstecher, co-owner of Brenneman & Pagenstecher Residential Architects & Builders in Kensington, Md., is getting them onboard with the company culture from the beginning.

“We stress the idea that with us they'll have a long-term career and plenty of opportunities to show us the cool things they can do. But when they start, we ask them to do things our way first,” says Pagenstecher, who has hired many a former business owner. In his experience, they work best at the lead carpenter level, and his hiring ads are geared toward more experienced workers. During the interview process he is able to talk with the candidate's previous clients and see finished projects.

“There is a period of re-education,” agrees Denker, “but they've been through a maturing process and they're usually open to another company and another set of systems.”

The only stumbling blocks Pagenstecher sees are that sometimes “candidates will ask for income that's too high for what the market will bear, and they aren't used to the [year-round] pace.”

But like H&P, Brenneman & Pagenstecher offers steady work, growth opportunities, and benefits. “When some guys come work for us they are able to take the first vacation they've had in 10 years,” Pagenstecher says.