Steven Albert and his staff aren't lacking for work in the San Francisco Bay Area. “This region has a tremendous number of homes in need of attention,” says the owner of SEA Construction. In addition to the volume of older homes, ranging from turn-of-the-century Victorians to 1970s and 1980s homes beginning to show their age, the company's business approach is what keeps new jobs coming its way.

By age 20, Albert had already been building and remodeling homes on his own and in 1988 found that the “traditional” approach to organizing those jobs just wasn't working. “The architect, the contractor, the homeowner, the engineer — we were all on separate pages and not coordinated,” he says. “I set out to start a design/build firm where everyone would be at the same table to help the homeowner come up with the best project at the best price.”

Now SEA Construction has all its design services in-house, from architecture to interior design. Albert says that the first few years were “pretty lean” because the management style was foreign to prospective customers. But things have turned around. “Clients can see us in action and understand how comprehensive and precise we are with the plans for their project.”