Lots of now-old LBM operations started off as something else. Kuiken Brothers, our Dealer of the Year, began as a home builder. Other companies used to cut timber. Still others hauled coal. But all evolved in response to community needs and opportunities.

ProSales is no different. We might have begun as a cult publication devoted to shining a light on what was a rare breed "the pro-oriented dealer" back when regional home centers dominated, but today our aim is to provide ideas and strategies to all sorts of construction supply firms. And with this issue, our evolution continues.

Flip past the opening articles and you'll find two new columns that respond to our changing times. The first is called "Big Deals" and it will be devoted to filling dealers' hunger for insights into funding and managing their company's finances. We're long past the day when you can run your business with a cash register and a single bank contact down the street. You can count on Matt Ogden to help you raise your financial IQ as you expand your company's cash flow.

The second column addresses how to improve sales reps' skills at a time in which survival may well hinge on your ability to increase sales to new and current customers. "Nine Stages to Sales Success" will give insights from leaders of nine of the nation's best construction supply firms on particular aspects of the sales process. This issue's column shows how to increase sales to existing customers. Future columns will provide tips on qualifying prospects, setting goals, organizing your day, and providing service after the sale. Combine those with Rick Davis' continuing "Sell Sheet" columns and you'll get an extensive education in sales every issue.

Our other stories also will delve into sales, among them this issue's lead ProWatch article on turning your parking lot into a profit center. And we plan plenty of stories on two perennial favorite topics: operations management and product trends. Kuiken Brothers has few peers nationwide in the quality of its business practices; we believe you'll find much to emulate in our cover story. This issue's Product Monitor on decking and regular Hot Finds features are just appetizers to the extensive products menu we plan for the next issue.

Shrunken sales and leaner staffs no doubt have forced you to spend more time on the front lines than you did half a decade ago. In a perverse way, that's a good thing. Charles and Ray Eames, the husband-and-wife team that created numerous pieces of furniture that came to epitomize modern design, learned early on that even while they were running a large operation, they still found it vital to spend an extensive amount of time elbow-deep in the creative process.

"Never delegate understanding," Charles would say. With our new columns and returning sections, we hope you'll get the understanding you need to thrive in 2012.

Craig Webb, editor
[email protected]