On an earthquake repair job in 1989, Jeffrey Talmadge (seated, right) broke his ankle. It was the best thing that could have happened to him. He got out of the field and started running his business, with the able help of his bookkeeper wife, Adele (seated, center).

The move allowed Talmadge to place trust in employees. They've delivered, motivated by profit sharing and their boss's firm belief in self-improvement. Four leads are CLCs. Talmadge pays employees while they take seminars. One employee helped the company develop "environmentally friendly" options, including deconstruction services for tax credits. Production manager John Anderson, who came from a failed company in 1999, brought hard-won perspective in systems and business strategy. The entire crew has taken personality tests to improve office-field communications.

Talmadge's savvy also landed the company a steady contract with a property management firm, allowing him to add $250,000 worth of $10,000 jobs last year, atypical of the firm's $100,000 projects. The small jobs fill schedule gaps. These days you might find Talmadge using his ankle in other pursuits, like Tae Kwon Do.