It was a deal too good to pass up: A HUD house was up for auction at a rock-bottom price, and Stephen McNeil decided to go for it. Never mind that it was a former “house of prostitution” or that McNeil had never actually renovated a home before.

“I cut my teeth on every phase of construction by redoing that house,” McNeil said. “I didn’t have any real business background. I’ve definitely gone to the school of hard knocks.”

But that determination—and the gamble—has paid off for McNeil, who transformed the ramshackle house into what the Houston Post called “the jewel of the neighborhood.” During that transformation, McNeil launched CPR (tagline: Breathing New Life into Homes) almost by accident. “People watching me redo the house hired me to redo their house,” he said. “So I quit my job and went to work as a contractor.”

Years later, McNeil says it’s still the work he did on that original house that sets his company apart. “I learned how long things take, how much things cost, and how emotional this entire process is,” he says. “So I spend a lot of time talking to clients about the process. My commitment is that the end result will be what they dreamed it to be.”


- McNeil made up for lost time in remodeling through extensive involvement with NAHB and NARI as well as Remodelers Advantage. He’s also the past president of NARI’s Houston chapter, holding NARI’s Certified Remodeler and NAHB’s Certified Graduate Remodeler certifications.

- Customer service has always been a cornerstone of McNeil’s business. Today he uses technology to help better serve customers—and keep track of employees. GPS tracking and check in software allows him to see where his crews are, while a web-based client portal keeps customers apprised of their project.

- McNeil uses 10 full-time employees to maintain consistent customer service and job quality. Crews receive bonuses for job profitability as well as a tool allowance. They’re also incentivized to increase their own certification level and training. He even pays workers to watch instructional videos at the office, along with a taco meal to boot.