I like to make informed choices," says Gary Porter, president of G.A. Porter Construction in Dayton, Ohio. "If I don't know what's going on, I don't have the ability to make them."

So Porter naturally keeps his finger on the pulse of his business as much as he can. That includes a weekly report that gives him a complete financial overview of his company, all together on one sheet of paper. The report contains eight tables detailing everything from his bank balance to accounts receivable.

One table gives Porter a month-by-month projection of overhead. Another provides him with brief financial summaries -- including estimated profit, overhead, and cost to complete -- of each job that is currently in progress.

Porter has been using one version or another of this report for more than two decades, so within 10 or 15 minutes, he's able to determine which bills he needs to pay that week and when he'll need to sign a contract for another job.

Porter created his company in 1976 but says he didn't become a businessman until six or seven years later, after he almost went under. That's when he started paying closer attention to his bottom line. "Had I had these records before," he says, "I would have been able to make more intelligent decisions early on."