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In 20 years as an accountant in the Chicagoland area, I’ve seen a lot of my contractor clients go through business ups and downs. In my experience, the most successful are those who know what profit they need to make and keep a close eye on job costs. I consider it part of my job to teach less experienced clients how to set profit goals and achieve them. So I ask new clients to do three things. First, I ask them to make a budget, or cash flow plan, detailing their routine business expenses. Expressed as a percentage of their expected volume, this sets their target rate of profit (see Figure 1, next page). Second, I