Long-term relationships are the key to success for Gary (kneeling, left) and Jane Stokes (standing, second from left). The husband and wife team have run their design/build business together for more than 24 years. Gary handles sales and production management; Jane, trained as a landscape architect, does the design and bookkeeping. She also manages an aggressive marketing program that includes a customized presentation packet that draws on an archive of past projects organized by ZIP code.

"We don't do anything unique, but we do a bunch of it, to the same people in the same neighborhoods over and over," says Gary. "By the time a new customer calls us, they've seen our name three or four times."

Relationships with vendors play a part, too. The company has used the same suppliers and trade contractors for years and rarely shops one against the other for price.

Company loyalty extends to the employees as well. The pay is competitive, and the benefits are better than average, but the main attraction for employees is the family atmosphere and the freedom to run the jobs on their own.