Pinpointing the best profit idea often is exhaustive. However, a few weeks ago, I stumbled on something you might want to consider that could give you a competitive edge. It will separate you from your competitors, bring your customers closer to your sales people, and in turn create more sales.

If you are like most readers of ProSales Online, you cater to professional builders or professional contractors. Do you have a Contractor Dog House where it is comfortable to visit with your contractors?

What's that? A Contractor Dog House is a place at your facility where your contractors can relax, talk among other contractors, grab a cup of coffee, and watch sports on TV. I happened to stumble onto one such dog houses during my last consulting assignment.

While I was waiting to speak with a business owner, I spent some time with the store manager. Where? In a conference room? No. We sat at a round patio table with bar stools, watching SportsCenter on ESPN. I saw contractors gather on a nice sofa and chairs as an employee refilled the coffee pot. We were sitting near the entrance of the building in the showroom and not shoved in the corner.

I began to think, '"What's different here?" The TV was one difference, as it was providing nonstop entertainment. In addition, the sofa was large and comfortable, so I did not feel like I was in a cold place but rather one that was warm and comfortable.' The coffee was not in another room; it was on the cabinet display, just steps away from me. I also could see all of the contractor sales offices from this place.

The floors were clean and the employees that wandered by greeted me. Rather than ignoring me, they treated me as a guest, brewing up a new cup of coffee just for me. They didn't know I was not a customer but on a consulting assignment.

I then wondered, "How does the dealer profit from this environment?" The dealer officially opens for business at 7 a.m., but the contractors come in about 6:30 and, as the manager described, "They shoot the bull for about 50 minutes and talk business for about 10." I look at this as being a place where the framers can see the concrete finishers, roofers, drywall hangers, trim carpenters, and other trades and exchange jobs and leads.

More business takes place on a golf course, at a health club, in a church, at a little league game, in a fishing boat, or at a sporting event than in a conference room. Now you can add the Contractor Dog House to that list. Your contractors want to feel comfortable. They want a place where they can hang their hat. This particular Contractor Dog House did not have WiFi Internet service, but will by the next time I return.

If you do not have a Contractor Dog House, create one. Make it warm and inviting and include a flatscreen TV with sports. Have coffee nearby and include some type of food, even if you have it delivered. Don't skimp on the chairs.

And board up the conference room or use it for storage.

Chris Rader is a consultant based in Lafayette, La. Contact him at