Here's a list of New Year's resolutions that will help you improve your bottom line.

Develop an operating budget. You need to understand how much it costs you to run your company. The best way to do that is to develop a financial reporting system that lets you compare a budget to actual operating expenses on a monthly basis.

Learn to read financial reports. By analyzing a monthly balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, and other financial reports, you can find out a lot about your company's performance. Ask your accountant for help, or consult a reference such as Remodeler's Guide to Making amp; Managing Money by Linda Case (published by Remodeling Consulting Services,

Use job cost reports as a management tool. For every job, review the variances between budgeted and actual costs every week. Then curb potential cost overruns before it is too late.

Cut operating costs. Question all expenses. Once you start looking, you'll find many expenses you can shave. Cell phone use and excessive travel from jobsites to pick up supplies are two places to start.

Strive to improve gross profit by at least 2% and reduce operating expenses by another 1%. On annual volume of $1 million, a 3% increase in net profit would add $30,000 to your bottom line. That's not bad for simply following through on your New Year's resolutions. -- Steve Maltzman, CPA, is president of Builder Accounting Services in Redlands, Calif.