I try not to get preachy in this column. While I see it as part of my job to point out where you might try doing things better or a bit differently, at heart I am an advocate for remodelers. Having been one myself for 20 years, I know how hard your job can be. You've already got employees, subs, and clients — and maybe a spouse — telling you how miserably short of expectations you fall, so the last thing you need is for me to join the chorus. But there are exceptions, and this is one of them.

What I'm referring to is the fast and loose attitude most of you take toward business basics. I know whereof I speak because I just finished reviewing the data from all of your responses to our 2007 Business Benchmarking survey. We had enough responses to be able to generalize about the many based on results from the few — that's the whole point of a survey like this — and my one big takeaway is this: When it comes to your company's critical financial numbers, most of you are winging it.

Yes, the survey was long and yes, it asked for information that might not be at your fingertips. But I didn't think it was too much to ask you to take a half-hour to dig some numbers out of your books. My mistake, apparently, was to presume that most of you are keeping books or that they are anywhere near up to date. The numbers from smaller outfits — under a million dollars, especially — were all over the place, but the fact is we found anomalies — big ones — among companies in all revenue categories.

Please don't misunderstand. The research turned out fine. We worked through the issues with the data and we came up with a set of solid results. But the back story is that way too many of you are running businesses out of a checkbook and trying to keep track of everything in your head.

You can read a set of prints; you know your way around a code book; and you can instantly recall the phone number of any one of a hundred subcontractors or suppliers or past clients. And I know for certain that you sweat the details of everything you build, from foundation and framing to flooring and trim. Why, then, do you neglect that other thing you are building — your business? Doesn't it deserve the same attention you devote to rafter seat cuts and mitre joints?

Running a remodeling business is not a cakewalk, but you don't need an MBA, either. Running a remodeling business is a discipline, and mastering it is critical not only to your success but to your survival.

I was hoping for better.

Sal Alfano, Editorial Director