Jeff Easter (second from right) learned his most important business lesson as a college football defensive end: If you get the ball, you'd better run with it.

He does all the design for his firm -- a skill he learned through 25 years in the business, watching what other people "didn't think through." The design intuition now serves him well on average jobs of $140,000. His jobs are high-end -- he works in the country's third wealthiest county -- and his clients, all very particular. He offers them one-stop shopping, down to furniture and drapes, through a subcontracted interior designer.

Jeff has always relied on word of mouth. If he does marketing, it's simply getting to know people at black-tie fund-raising events.

He logs an 85% close rate on leads qualified by a half-time office manager or his wife, Melissa (third from right), a real estate agent who helps manage the office.

A corkboard on every jobsite details schedule, listing day-starting and day-ending procedures. A strict subcontractor policy makes subs responsible for appearance and strict adherence to schedule and budget. "There isn't one thing we don't have systems for," Jeff says.