As the owner of a remodeling company, you're constantly harvesting relationships. Everyone works hard to retain the best possible rapport with their clients; after all, they might have more work for you in the future, and they are, of course, the source of referral leads. But your relationships with the people you work with every day -- manufacturers, suppliers, subcontractors -- are just as important.

Case Design/Remodeling, Bethesda, Md., is one company that has turned its professional contacts into bona fide partnerships, or "alliances," to use the company's term. In the third year of the program, approximately 70 companies are involved. "We told them, 'We want to take it beyond casual dating, we want to get engaged,'" says Mark Richardson, Remodeling columnist and president of Case. The company offers this select group of vendors special training sessions and the chance to network with others in the industry.

The benefits to Case are numerous. For one, the "alliances" share in some of the company's marketing expenses, through sponsorship of various activities. It has also created loyalty. But most important, says Richardson, "they really do give us preferred status. If we have a challenge or a problem with a project, they move it up the list."

Of course, Case is a big company, and a program of this magnitude isn't feasible for most remodelers. Still, smaller companies can leverage the professional relationships they already have. Anthony Cerami, owner of Anthony James Construction in Westfield, N.J., brings in a manufacturer's representative once a month for a lunch with his entire staff. In addition to the obvious benefit of a training session for his employees, Cerami says the meetings have helped him establish a stronger bond with the manufacturers. "When we have a problem, they always find a way to help us out," he says.