Ben Morey (front row, right) won't meet with a prospective client unless they can remember who gave them his name. That's how tight his referral system is. He sees past clients as some of his best salespeople. And he gives his clients their due, sending background information before he hits their doorstep and spending two hours on the initial “dual interview process,” which includes discussing a budget range based on past projects, time schedule, and design agreement, and, if they need it, directing them to financing help.

It's paid off. “In the past eight years,” Morey says, “I've only had one client that signed a design agreement and decided not to have us build.”

Morey has recently changed over to having design as a separate profit center.

“Sometimes [design] is a significantly larger margin than we're making in the building portion.” From 2003 to 2004, sales nearly doubled.