Since being recognized as one of the Big50 in 2003, Jeff Talmadge has done a 180 on his company. Located in Aptos, Calif., Talmadge Construction had been bidding on projects and using plans created by outside architects and designers. “We were pretty detailed in our investigations and thorough with estimating, but we were looking very expensive compared with other contractors,” says Talmadge, acknowledging that the process wasn't working. So Talmadge steered his company toward design/build. Now, he says, “100% of our projects are our own design.”

To reach this point, Talmadge first hired a full-time interior designer and trained her in the company's design and estimating processes. Then, in October 2004, he hired an architect who had been a long-time subcontractor. He also got help from his Remodelers Advantage Roundtable group in making the transition. With his co-owner and wife, Adele, Talmadge has purchased and remodeled a building in town to fit the company's more professional image.

Talmadge says that he hasn't had trouble convincing clients that this is the better way to do business. “We set up a teamwork approach from the start, and we don't have to be out there competing with everybody. It's very efficient.”