Fourteen years ago, Brian Altmann did his first deck job for $20,000. From there, he "never looked back." Today, though, decks are only 5% of what Dutchess Building Specialists builds. Custom screened porches account for another 10% of their work, and the remainder is full-scale remodeling projects, both residential and commercial. The company is currently in the middle of its second large project for Vassar College.

Rigorous expense tracking and cost analysis ensure that jobs reach projected profit levels. More than that though, "we want to be known as a company that is very thorough, and very caring," Altmann says. The desire to mold the image of the company to that end shapes all its procedures -- from a regularly staffed office to the use of detailed client satisfaction forms.