After being named Big50 in 1998, David Tyson began preparations for growing David Tyson & Associates, his then $600,000 company, slightly differently from most firms: He instituted company procedures and systems in a collaborative effort with his employees.

“I worked with my core employees to write procedures, job descriptions, the company manual, our health insurance plan, vacation policy, and retirement plan,” Tyson says of the Charlotte, N.C., firm. “I wanted them to buy into it. I wanted them to feel like an active part of the company.”

And they did. By systematizing his operations, Tyson improved efficiency to the point that he was able to double his volume while adding just three staff to his five-person team.

courtesy David Tyson

Currently Tyson is in the process of writing a “personal vehicle use” policy with his employees to accommodate travel for jobs that, increasingly, are farther from his office.

Last year, Tyson wrote the first marketing plan in the company’s 26-year history, dedicating 4% of gross revenue to the effort. “When the market turns around, we [will be] well-poised for more growth,” he says.

The plan includes radio and magazine advertising, a direct mail campaign, job signs and fliers, as well as a courtesy letter that is hand-delivered to neighbors of the company’s current clients, along with an invitation to discuss how possible disruptions can be kept to a minimum. The latter effort is a good way to demonstrate the firm’s professionalism and to get a conversation started, Tyson says, noting that it has resulted in several new relationships.

Tyson also instituted a client referral program that rewards clients differently depending on the size of job they refer. For jobs as small as $5,000, the reward is a gift card to a local restaurant or business. For jobs that exceed $200,000, the reward is a weekend for two in Cancun, Mexico.

“Usually the total cost comes out to about 0.5% of the total job cost,” he says. “So it’s cost-effective for us, and very gratifying for the client.” That experience, Tyson notes, is one that can make someone a client for life.