A lot of business owners opine on the economy, but Steven Larsen can speak about Wall Street first-hand. Hired in the 1980s by big-name firms including the now-defunct Lehman Brothers, Larsen left his career as a financial consultant in 1992 to pursue a degree in landscape architecture. “I wanted to do something much more tangible and hands-on,” he says.

Today, Larsen Design/Build specializes in remodeling the “total outdoor environment.” “We only take on projects that have a substantial exterior component,” Larsen says. “If I get a lead or a referral specifically for a job more related to the interior, I’ll contact a NARI partner and refer it to them.” Similarly, other area remodelers will bring Larsen in after completing the home construction, “when the client wants to know how it’ll impact the landscape.”

Currently the company’s staff consists of Larsen and his wife, Cheryl, who is a partner in the firm’s LLC structure. Larsen handles project management work and for labor relies on subcontractors, some of whom he has worked with since before he hung up his own shingle.

So what does this former financial analyst expect for 2009? “I’m a little guarded this year because, with discretionary spending down, people who do have money to spend on their homes are tending to spend it on kitchens and other indoor spaces,” Larsen says. A cold winter kept the phone slightly quieter than usual, but with the help of a revamped Web site, spring work is lining up. “We’re looking forward to more of that,” he says.

- Lauren Hunter