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

What is your key to success in remodeling?

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.

When asking the question, we purposely didn’t define success. We wanted the remodelers to do that themselves, which gave us a wide variety of answers. (You can see many of their responses here.)

Some told us success was hitting a certain net profit number. Others told us success was finding a way to generate new business, while some said it didn’t matter where the numbers came in as long as they had planned for it.

Still others said a successful 2012 was about keeping clients happy and making sure their company was a place that the employees wanted to come to everyday. (Not that the others we talked to didn’t care about those things. It’s quite natural to think of the business side of the business first off.)

They’re all right, of course. You can define success in a number of ways, and the “softer” keys to success drive revenue in their own way.

As Peter Michelson, CEO of Renewal Design-Build in Decatur, Ga., said when I talked to him, “If we don’t have excited team members here, we’re not going to thrill our clients. If we’re not thrilling those clients, we’re not going to have those repeats and referrals.”

One constant that did run through these opinions from leading remodelers is that they are focused on making their own opportunities this year. If they mentioned the broader economy or housing market, it was a challenge but not an impossible obstacle.

More and more these days that seems to be the difference between successful firms and those that aren’t. The companies that are doing the best have adjusted their expectations (and their overhead) in line with the work that is out there today.

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