2008 was tough and 2009 is likely to be tougher. So what's the most-important step you can take as you prepare to start your season? To me it's obvious: Attend National Pavement Expo, Feb. 18-21 in Charlotte, NC. Cynics out there might think I'm shilling for Cygnus Business Media, which employs me and operates NPE -- but that's not the case. Obviously we all want the company we work for to be successful, but that's not the reason I'm urging contractors to attend NPE. Simply put, NPE can help your business survive, grow, and even become more profitable regardless of the economic conditions. No joke and no exaggeration. I've been putting together the conference program since 1991 and I can tell you of countless contractors who have stopped be in the hall or on the exhibit floor to tell me variations of "This show has made my business." Most of our speakers have had the same experience. Unfortunately I've also talked with people -- over the phone -- who say they don't come to NPE for any of a variety of excuses. Too bad for them. Most of those folks are looking for the Big Secret that will solve all their business problems and make them millions. But education -- and business -- doesn't work that way. The contractors who attend NPE successfully are those who take bits of information from seminars, ideas of contractors they've met between sessions, answers to questions they've posed to exhibitors on the floor -- and then applied what they learned to their business. These bits of information might be small, enabling them to save, perhaps, $100 on a job. But if that contractor does 250 jobs a year he's just moved $25,000 to his bottom line. And that's just for one year. What happens if he can apply that savings over 10 years?