By Joseph F. Schuler Jr.. When owner George Thomas was named Big50 in 1996, his company had an insurance restoration niche that netted $2.5 million in sales per year. He grew GTC to a $7-million-a-year company by making existing divisions into separate companies and purchasing new companies. GTC is the umbrella company for George Thomas Contractor, Builders Heating and Cooling, Builders Electric, Restorit Cleaning Specialists, Thomas Fabricating Inc., and Leininger Bros. Lumber.

Five years ago, Thomas took time off to attend seminars and reassess company goals. When he returned, he reconfigured the staff, changed all the marketing materials, and went after the markets he wanted. He designed and built a 25,000-square-foot facility to house all six companies. He pays his employees well and offers great health and retirement benefits. Thomas believes the firm's 30% jump in productivity can be attributed to these benefits, as well as to competitive salaries and incentives.

Thomas says having a mill shop, a metal fabricating shop, and a lumberyard helps GTC stay competitive. The lumberyard sells to GTC at a reduced rate. "That gives us a bidding and marketing edge. Our bids are lower than our competitors'," Thomas says.