Don't take it the wrong way, but George Strother doesn't like having people around -- clients, that is. Two years ago, Strother decided his company, Stroco Building and Remodeling, Denville, N.J., would require clients to vacate the premises until their project was completed. Stroco also stopped accepting small projects.

Strother figured out that he could reduce cost, increase profitability, and cut the time needed for completion by taking only projects large enough to justify his request. The company works on about four projects at a time and completes six or seven each year. Whole-house remodels and major additions that also include interior alterations are typical.

The remodeler points out that not having clients around greatly expedites the building process -- a leaf he says he took from home builders' books. Not having to tiptoe around clients, clean up the jobsite daily, and explain the work being done moves the job along.

"The hardest part of remodeling," Strother points out, "is working with customers. I'm trying to take that part of the equation away." By having clients move out, Strother says he's making his operation "more like a traditional company that produces something and turns it over as the end product, all cleaned and polished."

Clients rarely have difficulty relocating. Strother says the key to making the policy work is building enough time into the schedule. "If the job will take six months, I make it a nine-month contract."