Until 2005, Trace Ventures had operated strictly under a time-and-materials system. But after meeting extensively with a peer review group, Art and Martha Stinson decided they had finally outgrown their existing model. The time had come for a change.

“We had great systems in place for cost-plus,” Art explains. But he felt that the price he gave clients under the system was “more of a glorified estimate than a true price. It was a moving target. We felt that our clients deserved better.”

So in 2005, Trace Ventures moved entirely to a fixed-price system. The transition was not without its setbacks, though. Sales were down and the company had to let go three employees who had difficulty making the transition. But in 2006 the company bounced back, posting sales 20% higher than in its final year of cost-plus.

Trace Ventures is well-known in Nashville for its charitable activity both at home and abroad. In addition to giving to many local foundations, the company contributed design/build and project management expertise to renovate an AIDS orphanage in South Africa this past year. This activism has boosted the company's reputation, too. “Existing clients see it and it validates their choice [to hire Trace Ventures],” Art says.