Steve Schliff (front, right) worked as a journeyman carpenter and tile-setting subcontractor until he married Lisa (front, left). She convinced him to get his GC license. When he did, she quit teaching at a college in 1994 to administer and market the business, never realizing she'd become so involved in remodeling that she'd be secretary of her local NARI chapter.

Steve moved out of production into sales, using his design and drafting experience to garner business.

The company specializes in window installations and exquisite ceramic tile work ($70,000 jobs in the Berkeley hills are average) but also does remodels ranging up to $350,000. Its multiple niches have allowed it to weather economic downturns. Because the Schliffs still do tile work for other companies, "we get to see how GCs run their jobs," Steve says. "How they keep the jobsites clean, see if they do it as well as us, see what systems and tricks they employ. If there's something to adopt, we do it."