With the start of every new year, your P&L goes back to zero. January 1 is always a clean slate, but 2008 looms as a particularly powerful incentive for reviewing your business practices, rethinking your assumptions, and evaluating your personnel. Here's how some remodelers I know plan to confront their biggest business challenges in '08.

PUMP IT UP Several remodelers have laid out aggressive strategies for generating more and better leads.

In San Diego, Jackson Design & Remodeling aims “to separate ourselves from the pack,” says owner Todd Jackson. The company has a 6% marketing budget, plans to expand its showroom, and has a staff member who focuses on marketing. “You'll have to offer something above and beyond your competition,” Jackson says. His company also had the added advantage of a $3 million backlog and “excellent name recognition” when the slowdown began.

In Pittsburgh, J. Francis Company has enjoyed steady growth, but “that might be harder in 2008,” says owner John McCloskey. “We're going to do more of what we are doing now — focusing on ‘feeder' referrers — and we're going to be more aggressive.” By “feeders,” he means architects, real estate agents, brokers, and other high-volume referrers of work for each of the company's three divisions — residential, commercial, and industrial. To stay top of mind, the company uses a spreadsheet to track one-on-one contact with each referrer at least quarterly, wooing them with meals, tickets to sports events, and gifts.

The slowdown seems to be well under way in Fort Myers, Fla., where Progressive Builders' leads are down 32% from last year. “We've been able to hit our volume goals, but most of our clients in '07 have been generated from leads in '06,” says owner Michael Spreckelmeier. As the company's only salesperson, he plans to sharpen his sales system and work with his production coordinator, office manager, interior designer, and bookkeeper “to increase the marketing budget and pump up our marketing.”

In Indianapolis, Bill Connor of Connor & Company faces the added burden of property taxes “that just went through the roof,” he says. “We'll put together a strong marketing plan, crank up our Web site development, develop a design/build piece, and get it out to our past clients.” His company is also adding a commercial division, with a full-time salesperson, to augment its remodeling, handyman, and industrial divisions.

STRATEGIC SHIFTS Brian Nobile is also keeping his eye on the economy, but his biggest concern is finding quality subcontractors who are fully insured so he can subcontract more work for his company, Nobile Construction of Branford, Conn. He plans to broaden his search beyond his current base, create new relationships, and pay top dollar to hire the best.

Jim Basnett's approach to beating a weak market includes a step-by-step plan for streamlining the sales process. “We want to make the sales go faster without losing our quality control,” says the owner of Basnett Design-Build-Remodel, in Littleton, Mass. He plans to fine-tune marketing to attract the right clients, to develop a budgeting tool that will quickly confirm whether a design is within the client's budget, to add credit card capability, and to create a more standardized specification library.

Finally, some proactive thoughts from a remodeler whose market is still surging. In Seattle, Denny Conner of Conner Remodeling & Design predicts that his biggest challenge in 2008 will be managing growth — specifically, by adding “great team members without overstaffing. I'm trying to keep the less-than-stellar national economy in mind,” he says.

What will be your biggest challenges in 2008? Now is the time to think them through and map out an aggressive strategy for meeting, and beating, them.

—Linda Case is founder of Remodelers Advantage in Laurel, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. 301.490.5260; [email protected];www.remodelersadvantage.com.