You don't stay in business 26 years without a superb understanding of market ups and downs and a sharp focus on overhead. Joe McKinstry (left) says these days leads are off, jobs are smaller, and hard-hit commercial contractors are plying his market. But he's made adjustments to take on projects below his $300,000 average. He's retooling his crew focus so they survive Seattle's brutal downturn. Traditionally, foundation work, framing, siding, and cabinet work were subbed. Now, the crew does those jobs on half of their projects.

"I share with them the vision," McKinstry says of his team. "I don't share the pain of the possibility of not knowing where the next job comes from."

McKinstry left the field years ago, but he maintains a long affiliation with Habitat for Humanity and a direct relationship with his clients, allowing communication issues to be heard immediately. Weekly, he "runs the trap line," to check job progress. His safety program helps him register a .60 experience rating (with 1.00 average), said by state officials to be "unheard of" in construction. It helps him keep overhead down and margins up, despite the market.