When Jim Friedman (right), Paul Ryan, and their company, Ryan Associates, were named to the Big50 in 1993, they were already a huge success story, doing $12 million of business in a “soft” year. In the past 11 years, the business has grown 500% due to bold expansions and a refocusing of the company on ambitious and daring remodeling projects. “Our job size and sales volume has increased,” Friedman says about Ryan Associates' growth.

While their new construction business is still just 50% of their jobs, they have grown into multi-million dollar projects. New offices in Hawaii and Napa Valley focus on commercial construction and wineries, while the original San Francisco office focuses on projects requiring complete gutting and remodeling of historic homes in that red-hot real estate market. The pair discovered this niche as a good way to not only avoid the hefty administrative red tape that comes with demolishing and rebuilding but also to preserve the unique old world charm of the homes, while giving them new life.

Even now with over 200 employees, Friedman and Ryan make it to jobsites every day and have set up a small projects division to handle those $20,000 to $200,000 jobs that gave them their start.