Jonathan Sweet is the editor in chief of Professional Remodeler, an award-winning trade publication for remodelers and home improvement contractors. He started his career covering homes and small businesses at a daily newspaper and has spent more than a decade writing for several construction trade publications including Qualified Remodeler, Construction Pro and Concrete Contractor+Jonathan Sweet

A recent experience got me thinking about how companies all-too-often fall back on financial incentives when dealing with an unhappy customer, yet totally miss the point and fail to solve the problem.

Allow me to explain: I’m a long-time reader of the Chicago Tribune, but a series of delivery problems from the paper never showing up to arriving hours after I left for work lead me to first cancel the daily paper, then, finally, to recently give up the ghost and cancel the Sunday as well.

The Brady Bunch is a font of life lessons from the importance of compromise to why you should never lie to your parents to ... uh ... never walk out in the backyard without keeping an eye out for a football.

So once again I find myself turning to The Brady Bunch when it comes to dealing with the challenges of selling projects under the Lead Repair & Painting Program rule.

For the last couple of years I've been speaking to groups of remodelers about crafting a social media strategy for their firms and one of the things I always say to do is to create a social media policy for your employees.

One thing I didn't know about until this last weekend was that you need to be careful your social media policy doesn't violate labor laws. (thanks to attorney Jeremy Lewin, who shared this info at the NARI House of Delegates meeting Saturday.)

The 100 Best Kitchens & Dining Rooms

This new book from Beta-Plus is a nice collection of design ideas, but definitely more of the coffee table variety than for the pro.

That said, it could definitely be a source of inspiration for you or your clients. There's a nice mix of contemporary and traditional designs, but to be clear this is a book of European homes. Not surprising, as it is from a European publisher, although the book is being marketed here in the U.S.

Excuse me if you've heard this before ...

In what we can't exactly call a surprise, another government program aimed at helping underwater homeowners is falling well short of it's goal.

This time it's the Obama administration's "Hardest Hit" program, which was announced in 2010 that targeted states and communities most affected by the housing crisis.

In a report issued today by the Special Inspector General for TARP, the program was found to have spent only $217 million of its $7.6 billion budget and helped only 30,600 homeowners.

When you look at your trade contractors, your suppliers, product distributors, what do you see?

Are they a line item, an expense, a necessary evil or are they true partners?

It’s easy to look at your drywall guy, your lumber yard or your window supplier as someone with which you simply do business with, but finding new ways to partner can be an important way to succeed.

Employers have had it pretty good the last few years when it comes to managing employee turnover and keeping workers happy.

The state of the economy has made it difficult for unhappy employees to find other opportunities. Many companies have taken advantage of this to see just how much work they can squeeze out of the few employees left.

Having arrived in Orlando for the International Builders Show and NAHB Winter Boards, a few quick updates and observations:

Over the last few months, I've talked to a lot of remodelers that are opting to use the cloud to store their files and share them with subs and clients.

The idea is that it gives companies an easy way to back-up files and move them without spending a lot of money on servers, extra hard drives, etc. It's a great idea - I do it myself, using Amazon's cloud service, as well as Dropbox.

We reached out to dozens of remodelers for this month’s cover story, asking them what they saw as their top challenges and opportunities for 2012.

We also asked them to define their “key to a successful 2012.” And that’s where things got interesting.

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