A modest newspaper ad —“Have truck, will haul anything” — put Per and Patricia Dropping in business in 1972, when Per lost his job as an elevator installer. Though the couple is mostly retired today, their company is thriving under son Karl (shown) and his three branded divisions: Norsk Remodeling, Norsk Design Studio (kitchen and bath showroom), and Norsk Total Home (small projects and home maintenance).

Being in Microsoft territory, Norsk (a nod to the family's Norwegian heritage) caters to its tech-savvy clients. Project-specific Web sites let clients view drawings and photos, post selections, and query their designer. Project managers stay in touch from the field using laptops equipped with high-speed wireless cards.

Norsk's design/build process “makes changes the exception, not the rule,” Karl says. Its phases are “imagine, design, prepare, realize, and live,” and the “prepare” phase is so detailed that it ends with drawings on which the entire job is specified.

Generous benefits for employees include 23 paid days off, quarterly internal training opportunities, and “job well-done” coupons that staff give to one another. Collect 10 and get a paid day off —just one reason why more than two-thirds of the company's employees have been at Norsk for five or more years.