Relying almost 100% on referrals, both Stephen K. Hann of Stephen K. Hann Custom Builders in Houston and Leo Martineau of LCM Remodeling Co. in Merrimack, N.H., know how to keep clients happy, from start to finish to follow-up:

Create a detailed spec sheet. This spells out the scope of work and prompts conversation about finishes. "It minimizes misunderstandings," Hann says.

Keep the jobsite safe and clean. Martineau lays down recycled felt cloth to protect floors from foot traffic. The site is vacuumed daily, and at completion, a professional cleaner scours the house. If the front yard is liable to get torn up by work crews, Hann's people build a plywood walkway.

Project a professional image. Uniforms go a long way here.

Communicate. Hann's project managers hold weekly client meetings to review selections, change orders, or problems. "Make it fun," he says, "so when the client is sitting around late with friends, they'll say they enjoyed the process."

Reward. Recognizing that clients have lived through a trying process, Hann sends sandwiches and flowers on move-in day as a "thanks" for the business. Follow up. Thirty days after a project's end, Hann sends a survey and note asking for feedback. He includes a dinner gift certificate. "This makes for an event," he says, "and they talk about us or think about us, or take someone to dinner and tell them about us."