How long does it take to know where you stand? Where your next job is coming from? How you'll meet payroll? Not as long as you might think.

Don't call your accountant. Take two minutes and determine the answers yourself. You already know the answers, so they're not difficult to come up with. You'll especially want to focus on the following areas.

Leads. These are your life source. Without a steady stream of qualified leads and signed contracts, you're dead. How many new leads did you come up with this month? Where did they come from? How many sales calls did you make? What about closes?

The funnel. Keep it full. Qualified leads go in the top, and a select few come out the bottom as contracts. The ratio varies, but if you can maintain a 10-1 ratio, 10 leads to a sale, you're flying. Your marketing is working. Your sales technique is proven. How many jobs are waiting for contracts? How much are they worth? How many jobs do you have scheduled? How much are they worth? How many jobs are in production? Again, worth how much?

The future. If several jobs end in 30 to 60 days, that's gut-wrenching. If a sizable number end in 90 to 120 days, you could face a cash-flow crisis. If job completions are spread over six months and your funnel is full, congratulate yourself. So, determine, How many jobs end in 30 days? 60 days? 90 days? 120 days?

Pick the same day every month to do this checkup. When it's time, don't procrastinate. Review your findings with those of previous months. Then, take action. --Stephen Wilson is a partner in Biz-comm, a Reston, Va., marketing and communications firm specializing in the needs of remodelers. Contact him at [email protected].