The results speak for themselves: Baker's lost time rate dropped to zero in 2011 from 0.97 in 2007. With more than 4 million man-hours logged by late August, the 2012 rate so far is also zero. Recordable injury rates, meantime, declined to 2.31 through August from 7.95 in 2007.

Project sites also are subject to measures involving labor units, schedules and receivables, with resulting job cost reports, issued on both a daily and weekly basis, indicating "where we are on a bid and what, if any, adjustments in manpower are needed," says Martin.

Monthly financial reports weigh labor, material and equipment costs against revenue for every active jobsite. "We can tell where we'll be at the end of the job and use what we've learned on our next bid," says Schneider.

The Baker U. Curriculum

The bedrock of the SPQ program is in-house training, courtesy of the Baker University, an enterprise dedicated to driving ongoing professional training and education with five "college" programs, including safety training, craft training, technical training, computer training and leadership and management training.

Among other courses at Baker University, one named Pricing and Bidding Strategies, provided under the auspices of leadership and management, seeks to enhance a manager's ability to execute profitable contracts while decreasing the likelihood the manager will low-bid on unprofitable jobs.

Few do, which may explain the firm's prodigious growth in recent years. Midwest revenue alone totaled $115 million last year, though Schneider and Martin aim to drive it higher while capitalizing on improving conditions in the Southeast and Southwest. As they discuss strategy, the two sometimes sound as if they were veterans of MBA programs.

"Oh, no," says Martin, "not business school."

"Our MBA," laughs Schneider, "comes from the school of hard knocks."