Custom Design Works has a similar sales volume and a similar number of employees as when owner Tony Collins was named Big50 in 1994. However, the remodeler has adjusted his advertising and systems to serve the quality-conscious homeowners of Newport News, Va.

In 1994, Collins notes, quality new houses cost about $100 per square foot, while quality remodeling projects started at $125 per square foot. Today, new construction and remodeling are even at $150 to $175 per square foot. Today's homeowners see the similarity in value of new construction and remodeling. This change makes it easier for Collins to close on a sale and to charge for design. When a client is on the fence about remodeling vs. moving, he suggests they take the weekend to visit new home developments. After looking at new construction prices and comparing neighborhoods, they usually return to him to renovate their existing house.

Collins' average project increased from $25,000 in 1994 to between $75,000 and $100,000 today. He now charges for $1 per square foot for the design on these large projects.

“In 1994 I was scared to charge for design. Today if you don't charge for design they wonder if you are capable of handling their large project,” Collins says.