The custom building profession was once naturally diversified—in good times, you built new houses from the ground up; in leaner times, you took refuge in larger remodels. But in this recession, even the substantial remodeling jobs dried up. Business is coming back, but gradually and painfully for many. Builders who once worked exclusively on a cost-plus basis are back to bidding against multiple competitors. Chances are, if the bid is real, the client will take the cheaper guy, who may or may not outlast the job. Where is the silver lining in this scenario? To mix metaphors, it may lie in the ace up the sleeve—the revenue stream that allows a builder to “just say no” to the bad job or the bad client. And so, when we went looking for our annual pacesetting builders, we focused on those prescient few who devined that new construction alone might not preserve their businesses in a down economy. No one expected a recession of this duration and severity, but the following custom builders have successfully bolstered their companies while adding disciplines that feed their core competence. It’s a win-win in good times and bad.

2011 Pacesetter Awards Winners

John Abrams - Diversification Strategy: Establishing an energy services division.

Mark Grassi - Diversification Strategy: Adding commercial projects to the company's portfolio.

Talli Oxnam and RJ Cooper - Diversification Strategy: Launching a services division.

Vincent Petrarca - Diversification Strategy: Bringing cutting-edge architecture to the design/build model.

Michael K. Walker - Diversification Strategy: Serving as an expert witness.