Hot Springs, an hour's drive southwest of Little Rock, Ark., may be in a poor state and have just 40,000 residents, but it can boast of two arts festivals and that former President Bill Clinton grew up here. Alan Clark also defies stereotypes. While most LBM folks are early birds, Clark arrives at 11 a.m. and works into the night. His store has morphed from a lumberyard to a place where flooring provides 70% of the revenue. Here's how he keeps business bubbling.

Alan Clark Photo: Steve Jones Shifting Emphasis. We were with Ace for 20 years and developed from a lumberyard into a full-blown home center. But in a crisis a few years ago, we decided to emphasize floor covering. ...Now we have the largest flooring inventory in Arkansas–1,200 area rugs. We sell ceramic and porcelain tile, hardwood, laminates, carpet, and vinyl tile.

Moving Product. The biggest thing with [handling] flooring is that you can't just have the average yard guy. You have too much breakage. You drop a bundle of studs, you still have a bundle. You drop a box of tiles, you've lost it all.

Coming to Terms. Payments vary by product and country. In the U.S. flooring industry, if they lose your check, they cut you off. In carpet, you can get 5%-6% for paying in 60 days. Italy, in tile, has some of the best terms–120, even 150-day terms aren't uncommon. Of course, for the first 45 days of that, your product is on the water. In China, a lot of stuff you pay for up front. I could never do that.

Survival First. We want to make money, but we always wanted to survive. We came close to opening up a second location last year. I was kicking myself then, but I'm glad now. We'll survive if anyone survives.