Have you ever reviewed your balance sheet for the month and wondered why you're not profitable? Usually one or two jobs went bad — people didn't pay or didn't pay on time, or something on the job went awry.

There are ways to prevent that. Sometimes, for fear of saying no, a company takes on a job completely outside its expertise. Or it doesn't put the money into the job that it should. For example, we do a lot of roofing jobs, and the only way to get up that high is by scaffolding. But if the scaffolding isn't done the right way, it's a red flag for an OSHA inspection. The resulting fine could be three times the cost of the job.

Jobs Gone Sideways Customers don't just halt payment out of the blue; there's always an inkling. Sometimes, at some point in the job, the customer becomes unreasonable. Next thing you know, you're no longer speaking. That makes a bad situation much worse.

Should you take every job a salesperson can sell? No. That said, I'm willing to take on most clients and to do difficult or complicated jobs within our area of expertise.

We get a lot of jobs nobody else wants. Making money is all about pricing them correctly. I'm willing to take on a job even if the customer shows himself to be unreasonable — not because I think that person will stop being unreasonable but because we know how to manage those situations.

Every neighborhood has a pain-in-the-neck homeowner. You just have to recognize who those people are and have a system for dealing with them. No matter how they behave, proactively communicating prevents most problems from becoming disputes. If the problem does become a dispute, a written process for resolving it usually lays the matter to rest.

Total Satisfaction Our goal is 100% client satisfaction. With that promise, there's no such thing as communication overkill.

However homeowners want us to communicate with them — phone, text, email, notes left on the job — we update them regularly (using the Certified Contractors Network Contractor Messaging Service) and immediately make them aware of any issues. Those challenging clients often become the best referrals. People know that if you can make them happy, you can make anyone happy. —Scott Siegal owns Maggio Roofing, in Takoma Park, Md., and is president of Certified Contractors Network (www.contractors.net), a membership organization promoting best practices.