Keith Lay doesn't solicit by phone, mass mail, or radio. He has built his business on referrals, and recently, on ads -- testimonials from community leaders.

Twelve years ago, Lay was a school principal, tracking children's lives day and night. He then realized he was losing touch with his own kids. He moved to Oak Ridge, then ranked in the nation's top school systems, and sold product for a now-defunct siding company. "Out of 57 salesmen, I was number three, and I was doorknob dumb on how to sell," he says.

When his employer nose-dived, he sold siding on his own, convincing banks to finance jobs. He subcontracted the labor.

So now, instead of focusing on kids, Lay educates clients, providing information and answering questions. Once he's won them over (he closes half of his 162 leads a year), he sells more siding upgrades than any other company in his region. And he offers a lifetime labor warranty.