Since trading the chilly winters of Milwaukee for the hot summers of Arizona, Patrick Benkowski has never looked back. The former owner of Custom Design Associates, and a Big50 in 1991, settled in the booming Phoenix market six years ago. “I loved the Midwest, and my family is back there, but I really like this market,” Benkowski says.

In addition to the cross-country move, Benkowski made numerous changes in his new business venture, Roadrunner Custom Remodeling, in Fountain Hills, a Phoenix suburb.

Jeff Topping/WpN

Once the head of a $2 million a year remodeling business, Benkowski says his new company is smaller and more personal. He does most of the work himself, subcontracting major plumbing and electrical work. In its first year, Roadrunner Custom Remodeling passed the $100,000 mark. This year, the company is on target to hit $750,000. “I'm now a smaller business in a bigger market,” he says.

Benkowski also has integrated one of his hobbies — computers — into his business. He's created an expansive Web site that includes before and after photos, customer testimonials, educational articles, and a link to Arizona's registrar Web site. Customers can also view a sample contract.

Keeping in mind that many of his customers are Internet and e-mail savvy, he submits all proposals to potential customers via the Internet. “I e-mail them a link [to the estimate] and they can print it out,” says Benkowski, a business school graduate. “It's easier for me to type up the proposal in HTML format and send [prospects] a link to the estimate than it is to type it in a [Microsoft] Word document and fax it.” The remodeler also maintains the Web site for Arizona's chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, of which he was president in 1996.

Although creating online proposals can take less time and offers convenience for customers, Benkowski says there aren't enough remodelers taking advantage of today's technology. “I enjoy doing it, and it gives customers the best that technology has to offer.”