Success isn't always born of inspiration. Outdoor Environments, says president Dick DeVuyst (back row, second from left), "started as a fluke." Having sold his cable television company, De Vuyst, a trained architect, was keeping busy working on framing crews.

When his own DIY deck began attracting notice, he realized Kansas City lacked a top-quality custom deck company. But that chance beginning belies the discipline DeVuyst and Scott Balentine (back row, second from right), DeVuyst's production manager and chosen successor, have brought to bear in shaping a promising niche business into an award-winning company. DeVuyst always had the product. "From day one we've been ahead of the curve with our designs and construction techniques," he says. But with Balentine's help, he tightened the company's business systems, fine-tuning processes to such a degree of precision that he plans to launch an Outdoor Environments franchise.

Securing leads from its deck customers, the company has even spun off a full-service remodeling company.