Even in 1986, when Beldon Roofing Company won its Big 50 award during the first class of inductees, the company's main focus was on roofing and not remodeling. So in 1997, when the San Antonio firm dropped the remodeling component, owner Michael D. Beldon wasn't sorry to see it go. “It was hard to find a niche that was unique,” he says, adding, “the remodeling division had been flat for many years, and we didn't see the potential to grow it dramatically.”

The company then began selling LeafGuard, a residential rain gutter, and now operates franchises from 14 branches that cover 17 major U.S. cities. There wasn't a lot of training involved. “We just shifted personnel,” Beldon says. Still, about one-third of company revenues come from roofing, primarily government contracts.

Though the company's remodeling volume was $2.5 million in 1985, Beldon is reluctant to talk figures now. He'd rather talk about what a good time he's having. “After being in the roofing industry all these years, to get into something like this is a lot of fun.”

He will admit they're earning “dramatically more now,” and the business is much less difficult: “We have one product in 12 colors.”