Technology was finally on our side. Bradley Construction's principal was showing off his new toy, a PDA that had a wireless Internet connection. He had outfitted his supervisors and office staff with these devices so they all could communicate via e-mail rather than just cell phones.

When Pete, our sales manager, asked him why he made this investment, Mr. Bradley's answer was simply, “Voicemail.”

Think about it. You're a jobsite supervisor and you need to know whether the house you're building gets colonial or clamshell casing. You use your cell phone to call the purchaser, only he happens to be speaking to someone else.

You leave a voicemail.

When the purchaser finishes his call, he dials in to check his messages, then calls you back.

But now you're in the basement of the house where there is no reception. He leaves a message.

You dial in, check the message, learn the casing style, but then realize you forgot to ask about the size, so you call him back. He's on the phone again, and the whole process starts all over.

With his team outfitted with PDAs capable of sending e-mail, the same question would get fired off in an e-mail in two minutes. The purchaser would read the question and respond when he could. No time would be wasted dialing in, checking messages, or playing phone tag. It made perfect sense.

But that was only the half of it from our perspective. When Mr. Bradley left, Pete and I could barely contain our enthusiasm.

“So when Bradley says he'll be willing to pay extra for premium lengths of cedar siding...,” Pete began.