In 2007 Erik Kent left his job as a regional vice president for Alside and bought the Archadeck franchise in Charlotte, N.C. The Charlotte operation was the biggest in the deck-builder franchise, with sales in excess of $6 million. More than half of those sales came from adding decks to new homes.

STRATEGY SHIFT A year after he'd bought the business, deck orders to builders dropped to a quarter of Kent's business. Last year, they were 5%. But Kent had a plan: He'd move Archadeck from a deck builder pitching its product to anyone and everyone to an outdoor living specialist targeting higher-end customers whose needs extended beyond the deck.

Archadeck of Charlotte would “bring the backyard to life,” Kent says, with products such as hardscape, patios, outdoor kitchens, and outdoor fireplaces.

To create year-round revenue, he launched a remodeling and handyman division, adding 600 square feet of kitchen and bath vignettes to his showroom. Every carpenter leaves behind a refrigerator magnet reminding customers that the company does handyman work.

FULLY RECOVERED SALES Today decks are just one of the products that Archadeck sells. The company posted $6.4 million in sales last year, logging more than 1,000 jobs ranging from handyman to full-on exterior. Archadeck of Charlotte is the largest hardscape contractor in the Carolinas.

Home shows — where the company showcases its products and services in several booths — Internet marketing, and word of mouth bring in the overwhelming majority of sales, as opposed to print advertising.

Many of the changes Kent brought to his business have been passed along to other Archadeck franchises via the corporate office.

Handyman and remodeling “has become a seven-figure business for us,” Kent says. Adding that he has succeeded because his people have succeeded. The recession that all but stopped home building in Charlotte gave Kent an opportunity to hire the best. To thank his staff, in April Kent took the whole company on a Carnival cruise to the Bahamas.