Return phone calls. It's the little things that count in wholesaling or any other business, and this is one of the little things that drives customers bonkers. Contractors hate phone messages because they usually mean trouble or at least inconvenience. ("I want to change something.") People generally don't call to tell you they loved your work.

So suck it up and return those calls - immediately. Procrastinate and the messages will pile up into an hour's worth of telephone time. Find out what's wrong and deal with it.

Use e-mail more. Get into the habit of using e-mail for routine communications with employees, customers, suppliers and everyone else you come in contact with day by day. You can dispense with a dozen e-mails in the time it takes to complete a single phone call.

Use good judgment, though. Sensitive or time-critical messages are best conveyed in person or over the phone. And, be aware that e-mail leaves permanent evidence of your thoughts and actions, so never say anything in e-mail you wouldn't want someone else to see.

Take time off occasionally. Stop missing your kids' ballgames and school plays. Make them a priority in your life. Even if you don't have kids, take a day off on occasion to do whatever it is you like to do with leisure time.

Can't afford to do this, you say? The business would fall apart without you staying on top of everything? Proceed to No. 4.

Organize your business to run without you. Read one of Michael Gerber's "E-myth" books. He says it all. If you are indispensable to your business, you are not an entrepreneur, but a slave.

Concentrate on people, finances and marketing. Many owners excel in managing projects, but you can hire people to do those things for you. The world teems with bankrupt owners who thought all they need to succeed in business was to do good, honest work.

As a business owner, you will succeed or fail based on how well you handle people, money and marketing. You cannot hire people to do those things for you, at least not until you preside over a big company that can absorb the cost of a CFO, a human resources department and marketing specialists. But you will never get to be a big company if you insist on running every job.

Realize that marketing is essential to your business. Many owners like to brag that all of their business comes via word of mouth. These folks scorn companies that spend big bucks in the Yellow Pages and other forms of advertising. They think all they need to do is sit back and wait for the phone to ring.

That's stinkin' thinkin'. On average, you lose 9 percent of your customers each year to normal attrition. You need to gain 9 percent more just to stay even. Marketing is a good thing to do, not something of which to be ashamed.

Ignore your competitors, except don't get obsessed with how competitors run their business. If you think they're doing something wrong, be happy about it. It can only make you look better.

However, this advice only holds true for competitors you regard as weaker than yourself. When someone is doing better than you in the marketplace, then ...

Learn from your competitors. Stop sniping at the companies that buy the fancy trucks and equipment and make a lot of money. They're doing something right. Find out how they do it and imitate them.