Imagine waking up one morning and finding the business that you've spent years, maybe even decades, pouring your heart and soul into has just disappeared. All of your service trucks, tools, and equipment are gone. The office equipment, computers, and software — gone too. Worst of all, your entire customer records database and back-up hardcopy files are destroyed. What would you do? Where would you turn for assistance? How would you begin to rebuild?

Think it can't happen to you? Think again. If you don't believe me, then let me put you in touch with business owners who have experienced a California wild fire, Midwest flood/tornado, or an Atlantic/Gulf Coast hurricane firsthand. Their stories will definitely open your eyes, reminding you that their horror stories are a very real possibility for all of us — and something you should plan for accordingly. Read about one man's highs and lows in this month's cover story (starting on page 40), which also provides some interesting disaster planning tips and techniques that are worth reviewing.

Although disaster planning is a critical item to address in your business management plan, there are a number of other topics that focus directly on the day-to-day activities of running a business that are just as important. Preparing your company for an economic downturn and positioning it for future growth will help you survive an impending (or real) recession. Mastering production-tracking methodologies will make your supervisors and project managers more efficient, allowing you to take on more projects. Reducing the time spent handling materials on the job site will increase your field workers' productivity and improve your net profit. And improving your cash flow management practices is a skill you must master, as stricter credit standards are put into effect across the construction industry.

It's a given that it takes a certain level of electrical expertise to be successful in this industry, but to survive and thrive in today's challenging climate, you must also have strong business management skills. That's why we've made the move over the last few years to expand our editorial focus beyond the traditional technical articles EC&M is so well-known for and include those equally important business management-type articles that will help you become a more successful business owner.

This issue is packed with editorial to help you manage your business better from a technical, practical, and strategic standpoint. Send me an e-mail at mike.eby@penton.com, and let me know what business management practices are working for you as well as what topics you'd like to see more of in future issues. In our business, feedback is invaluable — so please drop me a line today.