By Christina B. Farnsworth and Daniel Walker Guido What makes America's Best Builders winners? One answer is that no matter their size, none of these winning firms rests on its laurels, and all have plans to successfully rise above the recession.

"Winners never quit. Quitters never win." This anonymous aphorism certainly describes the 2002 group of America's Best Builders. Keystone Custom Homes, a winner four years ago, won again. Simonini Builders has found just the right business formula to tap the celebrity home market. Village Homes of Colorado survived Denver's last downturn and is already charting a successful course through the area's current "Tech Wreck," with its closings and revenues down but profits up. And Stephen K. Hann Custom Builders? Well three is a charm for this dogged applicant. Each year owner Hann has polished both his business and his contest entry: This year, he won.

It's only natural to hear winning builders' platitudes--the claims that they are better than their competition, that they build better product, buy better lots in better locations, and manage and market their businesses better. Fact is, they do. But these fab four also make sure employees and other business partners are never far from the message.

What else do winners do worth emulating? They all stay in school, continuing their education through seminars and workshops. Village Homes, for example, has created its own Village University. The winners join peer groups made up of non-competing builders, like the Builder 20 Clubs. They work with private coaches. They look far enough ahead to minimize negative business cycles.

Winners know customers come first. Each of these firms has a method that helps home buyers navigate the daunting task of material and finish selections. And each has an in-depth customer service method to evaluate success or failure. Even the smallest builder here has partnered with vendors, suppliers, and subcontractors.

These are builders who consider their trade contractors, vendors, banks, and insurance agents their partners. They realize that the new age of technology means not ignoring e-mail. Simonini has developed its own software that launches with a daily to-do list for employees and customers. Village Homes' buyers can use a credit card for a deposit if they want to buy a home online.

And perhaps the best external endorsement of these winners is in the resale market. Realtors tout the Simonini brand--it adds value at resale. Hann's customers want to ensure the integrity of their homes, so they hire the company to remodel them.

Join us as we celebrate America's Best Builders 2002, and read on to learn the secrets of success from this victorious vanguard.

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