It’s a cloudy world out there if you live in the headlines. Jobs are down. Prices are all over the board. Businesses are closing up shop, and no one knows when it will end.

It’s a cloudy world out there if you live in the headlines. Jobs are down. Prices are all over the board. Businesses are closing up shop, and no one knows when it will end.

With all that negativity swirling around, consumers are uneasy, and they are changing the way they spend money on everything from the tiniest present to their largest investment, their home.

Everyone is feeling a bit of the pinch, and many business owners are fearing the worst. But I’m willing to bet that even in these “worst of times” there will be businesses growing in your market, and some of them are probably even other contractors.

How do they do it? In the same industry, the same market, and with the same customers, one company will grow through the tough times while another will slowly wither and wonder what happened. Or worse, they’ll close their doors and vow to come back when things change.

But if you’re going to keep zooming ahead even as everything in the economy around you seems to be slowing down, you need to put some engine-revving strategies into play.

As the economy gets tough, it’s amazing the number of ideas and experts there are out there to tell you how to do things, but the reality is that it doesn’t take anything flashy. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel to excel in tough times. All you need is a tough-minded focus, a drive to excel, and the determination to do the little things that success in contracting requires.

To do that, here are a few ideas on how to focus on what will really make the most impact for you this year.

Know Your Flow

One of the little things that can turn into a big thing when it’s overlooked is keeping tabs on your cash flow. When times are tough, you need to know how many dollars are coming into your company, where they are going, and how many you have left. That knowledge starts with timely and organized financial statements. If you don’t get them, now is the time. If you do get them, make sure that you know what each number means about the health of your company and what you can do to improve each one.

One line item that you can work to improve in tough times is your accounts receivables. The last thing that you want when you’re grasping for every dollar you can get is to have customers holding out on paying you for roofs you’ve already installed. Stay on top of your list and keep your company in front of those customers. If it comes to it, don’t be afraid to go to an outside agency to collect what money you can. Don’t let your A/R balance be the weight that drags you under in tough times.

The same goes for repair work. Customers are used to paying today for work that is completed today. For that reason, your team should be able to collect 100 percent of their revenue on repairs, and that means repairs are a great way to keep revenue and profits flowing in your business in tough times. Not to mention, homeowners today may be more willing to repair their roof than go through with the full cost of a reroof.

Keep Your Foot on the Gas

When you see everyone else around you slowing down, it’s natural to feel like you need to do the same, but don’t get caught with your foot on the brake. One of the first places that business owners cut back is on marketing, but this is a mistake that soon rears its ugly head. You can save a buck by not marketing, but then the calls dry up and you have even less revenue coming in than when you started. You can see where the spiral goes from there.

Instead, keep marketing your company in tough times, but be smarter about it. Look around for deals on advertising space. After all, the media is feeling the pinch too, so your local newspaper may cut you a deal to keep your business and fill that space. No matter how important it is to keep marketing, not everyone will, and that means that your investment will carry even more weight because of the slimmer competition. Another fringe benefit you can get from continuing to market is stronger rapport with your team. Let them know that you’re not giving up and that you’re marketing to keep them busy. When they see you working and spending to keep them working, they’ll be less likely to jump to another company.

Keep it Neat and Trim

Everyone knows that when you’re earning less, you need to spend less, and if you’re suffering from less than expected revenues, you need to do some trimming. Cut the expenses that you can and switch to alternatives that are less costly. And to get the maximum impact, you may need to do some research. Now is the time to call around and see if you can lock in lower workers’ compensation rates. Call around and see if you can find lower rates to insure your trucks and vans. Now might even be the time to see if you can get a lower contract for your office’s mobile phones. Attack your line items and keep things as neat and trim as possible.

Invest in a CD

Not the kind you’d find at your bank but the kind that can provide you with a blueprint to keep your business running at full speed this year. I recorded a CD called “How to Recession-Proof Your Business in Tough Times,” and on it you’ll discover 15 high-octane strategies for wealth and prosperity. The best part is that it’s free for contractors like you who are pushing to stay ahead in this tough economy. Get your copy today by It’s a no-brainer if you’re facing tough times in your company.

Keep accelerating this year, and you’ll zoom past the competition even if the economy around you is slowing down.