Mike Birner prides himself on the transparent approach his company takes with customers—so much so that he even puts into his bids the profit the company would make. “They know what we’re planning to make on that job,” says Birner, the firm’s architect and owner. “There are no secrets. There are no smoke and mirrors. And I think customers really appreciate that.”

The other thing customers seem to appreciate is the careful communication Birner’s team brings to each project. His end goal is to avoid the typical punch list altogether. “We don’t want to let any of that stuff fester,” he says. “We want it dealt with as soon as it becomes an issue.”

To that end, a lead carpenter is assigned to stay in day-to-day contact with the project manager on each project. All communication is documented digitally and shared with the office through a simple Dropbox system that also holds job information such as drawings, contract specs, estimate sheets, and change orders.

“We’re not doing anything complex,” Birner says. “Not all of the guys in the field are tech-savvy, so when we get too complicated it actually becomes less efficient.”

To generate leads, Birner leans on Google, Facebook, and Houzz, and he’s not shy about asking for referrals and likes. But he mainly relies on word of mouth and traditional events such as holiday parties, referral gifts, and follow-ups.

“It’s mostly just about being honest and upfront,” he says. “Referral and repeat customers have been more than enough—we’ve had to turn away work.”