Howell Design & Build North Andover, Mass.

Design/build remodeling

6 years in business

2002 volume: $2.3 million

Staff: 6 office, 7 field

When Stephen Howell's neighbor asked him whether he'd ever considered starting a construction company, Howell replied that he didn't want to wreck a hobby by turning it into a business. Six years later, that's no longer a concern.

The hobby-turned-business now boasts average project sizes of about $200,000. Howell, with a background in electrical engineering, handles the design work. "The biggest benefit of design/build is that it makes the design phase much more efficient by bringing the budget into the picture from day one, in a real way," he says.

Photo: Eric Roth Photography The company's leads work with a pool of production carpenters. "That way they get to work with all the different leads," Howell says. "We really stress mentoring and try to have the leads mentor the production carpenters."