He was his “own best carpenter,” supported by a small crew, when Shawn Lober made the decision to get serious about his company 22 years ago. He took off the toolbelt, hired a superintendent, and “that was the change in my business,” he says. “Everything has grown from there.”

All these years later, that first superintendent, Ted Young, is still with the company. Six other employees have been on staff 10 years or longer. Asked why his employees are so loyal, Lober speculates that it’s because he has created “a pretty good environment.”

For instance, besides having “the nicest kitchen and bath showroom in town” (Kitchens of Diablo, run by his wife, Shelley), he hires slowly and carefully, offers a generous benefits package, and works hard to ensure that every employee has plenty to do 40 hours a week — on high-quality projects, he notes.

One of Lober’s employee-morale programs, the “job spiff,” also inspires the kind of customer service that brings repeat and referral business. After each project, he asks the client to name up to three employees who went above and beyond. At the annual holiday party, he gives each employee a $100 Visa gift card for each time they were named. In 2008, he distributed $9,000 in cards.

- Leah Thayer