Five years after winning Big50 in 1988, Tom Gilday and his partner/cousin, Kevin, were forced to cut by half their 30-employee staff at Gilday Design and Remodeling. The depressed Washington, D.C., economy was to blame.

Since 1999, the Silver Spring, Md., company has come back strong. And the frenetic D.C.-area market doubled the '90s volume at the now-named Gilday Renovations. The Gildays reported $7 million in revenues this past year — the result of carefully finished jobs executed by a staff of 40. That includes 17 lead foremen, four architects, and three interior designers. Kevin's younger brother, Joe, has joined the firm as marketing director. Joe is intent on fashioning an image of a family business working with families who can afford to transform their houses to fit their family lifestyle.

But marketing isn't all that has changed at Gilday. Company culture now accommodates working with clients doing $125,000 to $250,000 jobs. Some jobs have topped $1 million.

Joe (left), Tom (center), and Kevin Gilday
Charles Steck Joe (left), Tom (center), and Kevin Gilday

“Clients have to have respect for the lead foreman,” says Tom Gilday. “If there's no respect, we have problems. We look for employees who have empathy with the client. Employees must be skilled and be able to communicate with clients on a daily basis.” Little things, like feeding a pet while the homeowner is out, can mean the difference between a successful or unsuccessful job, Gilday says. And an employee must do whatever's necessary to make the job flow, so the client's experience is a “wow” experience.

Joe's marketing campaigns have focused on the remodeling process, particularly large jobs deftly designed and completed by architects and trained production personnel.

The firm, Tom says, focuses on more than the usual pretty pictures. Tom and Kevin Gilday keep in touch with jobs from the sale and on — overseeing estimates, specs, and production — all in an effort to propagate their family-friendly image, and always in an effort to win referrals based on client trust.