Not until after he'd moved did Ed Castle of E.M. Castle Construction, Kensington, Md., realize that the prospective employees who turned down his job offers hadn't wanted to work in the basement of Castle's home. “I didn't put two and two together,” says Castle, who began renting office space seven years ago after his wife gave birth to triplets and the “household was pandemonium.” Although it was difficult to fit into the budget at first, Castle recognizes that the benefits of having an office away from his home outweigh the extra overhead.

Castle and his employees now have a weekly meeting. He brings clients to the office, something he hadn't done before. The walls are lined with project photographs and company awards, and there is space for product — even cabinet — samples. He is also able to do CAD work in-house with clients actively involved in their own designs. “It makes a huge difference to be able to work with a customer in a professional setting,” says Castle, who remembers the days when people would “come to the door in the middle of dinner looking for a check” or he'd find himself working late into the night. “The distractions are gone, too,” he says, including the refrigerator. “I probably lost five pounds [after moving out].”

Although he can't attribute all his company's growth — from three employees to eight and a jump in volume from $400,000 to $1.2 million — to having a separate office, he does say that he and his staff are more professional, and the company attracts more professional job seekers. A separate office, Castle says, “changes your perception of the business. You respond to things differently, act differently. You're forced into hours and structure, which is good for business.”