The Hammerschmidts spent many years giving architect-referred clients a dose of reality on budgets. “We were continually placed in the position of being the bearer of bad news on budget and expectations,” John says.

So, two years ago, the company switched to a design/build process. The firm specializes in taking projects from conception to completion with an average job size of $100,000. The company does work within a 20-mile radius of Los Altos, an area that includes Stanford University. About 95% of the work is with repeat clients and referrals. “It's imperative to form partnerships with customers from project inception and beyond,” Lynn says. One feature of that partnership is helping customers select products before the project begins. They also encourage customers to work with an interior designer and to bring that person into the process early.

Other improvements at the company include creating an operating procedures manual, sending its estimator to a CAD course at a nearby college, and becoming a certified green builder through a local program.