By Joseph F. Schuler Jr. Lance Combs (Big 50 1998) and his partner, Terry Skilling, built Rhino Builders to $4.1 million in two years. "I really enjoyed the personal relationships I had with clients, and when I started to feel like I didn't know people on a first-name basis, it bothered me," Combs says of his rocket-fired growth in the Rhino days. "So I came home, so to speak."

After selling his Rhino share to Skilling, Combs bought Muleshow Investment Co., a firm that does property management, remodeling, and custom trim work, from his dad, Larry. Renamed Creative Remodeling and headquartered in Merriam, Kan., Combs' company now employs his father and is finding a niche in $15,000 to $35,000 kitchen, bath, and basement remodels. Since June 1999, he has built a $2 million company with 13 employees.

In his focus to get closer to customers, Combs has invited clients to his house, or out for a beer. He has pushed the "creative" in his company name. For example, for a $80,000 addition he built for a woman who wanted her elderly parents to move in with her, Combs bought the couple's home and then used $15,000 from the sale toward the remodeling job. "We have great flexibility," Combs says. "I can look someone in the eye and make decisions on circumstance."