Any good sales person will tell you how important it is to get to know customers. Really understanding a customer, beyond just knowing what they like to buy, helps build strong relationships. With this in mind, Hanley Wood hired Specpan, an Internet-based research group, to survey builders, one of the concrete producer's most important customers, to find out what makes them tick.

A profile of the modern building contractor emerged at Hanley Wood's American Housing Conference in September. Of the 451 builders who were surveyed, 29% were over the age of 45. Most were men; 13% were women. And 63% of builders had earned a bachelor's degree or higher.

On the home front, most builders were married (83%), and they strongly agreed that family is important (85%). A vast majority (94%) own their homes, and more than a third (35%) own two or more houses. Most agreed they enjoy entertaining guests in their homes (69%).

Off the clock, dining out is the builders' favorite way to relax and unwind. Going to the movies scored second, and going to sporting events was a close third. Not surprisingly, golf is their favorite outdoor activity. Builders also enjoy bicycling, boating or sailing, fishing, swimming and hiking.

However, builders are still business-minded. For example, they are three times more likely to read a business or trade magazine than a newsweekly or sports magazine. When they buy books, almost 60% are business-related.

Many are frequent travelers. In the three months before the survey, roughly half of them had taken a vacation (53%), and traveled for business (47%).

Nearly all (95%) said they had taken a vacation in the past three years; more than half (55%) had traveled outside the continental United States.

More insights into how builders spend their time and money follow. You may want to consider these responses the next time you plan a meeting or have an outing with a builder.

For a full copy of the presentation, “Off the Clock: The Secret Life of Building Contractors,” visit the American Housing Conference atwww.americanhousingconf.com. Click on Speaker Presentations in the left navigation bar.