In 1999, Matthew Harrigan's company was floundering. His employees weren't showing up. They weren't committed to his "on time, on budget, customer 100% satisfied" mission.

Meanwhile, Harrigan worked 70-hour weeks, picking up the pieces. He gave his employees an ultimatum: Deliver projects on time and on budget or be fired. They couldn't deliver. He fired six of seven employees, retaining only his architect.

Harrigan rebuilt the company, hiring committed people and training them to the tune of $21,000 a year in costs. Since 1999, profit margins have zoomed to above industry standards. "I've spent the last three years, 45 to 90 minutes every Tuesday morning, training these guys how to take care of customers and how to handle technical aspects of their jobs," Harrigan says.

The former NARI of San Jose president is developing Internet-based software to chart every step a customer takes. He hopes it will speed production and improve field and client management. He took on a DreamMaker bath and kitchen franchise in October 2001 to offer services to middle-market clients, in addition to those Timeline typically serves on $100,000 jobs.