Imagine your best customer has just rejected two loads of concrete because he's behind schedule; several trucks are still on the job, waiting to unload; and because this customer has changed the delivery schedule, you have several drivers waiting in the yard. This customer has turned a potentially profitable day into a loss for both of you. You wince at the thought of his calling you with another big job. You need to speak with him, but since you don't want to lose him as a customer, you don't know what to say. It appears you are in a no-win situation. There is an answer. We have all heard the word "partnering," but few of us know what it means or how to do it. In this case, ask yourself this simple question: "If my business partner was losing money for both of us, what would I do?" The answer is simple. Ask him, "How can I help make our partnership more successful (profitable)?" If the contractor/partner is costing our partnership money, then we--the producer/partner--must teach the contractor/partner how to improve his work. Telling an experienced contractor how to do his job is a delicate process. The ability to follow through on that simple question depends on your confidence, your experiences, and your resources. Public-speaking experience helps, as does the willingness to pick up the phone and get the answers from cement and admixture salespeople and representatives of state and national associations. Contractors often don't realize that if they know how concrete will perform in various environments, both partners will be more profitable. We can decrease both partners' costs by training contractors how to prepare for, place and finish concrete properly and efficiently. And who can do a better job of training in those areas? No one knows our materials and our business like we do. When a contractor has a good grasp of concrete fundamentals, he can confidently request appropriate mix designs when ordering concrete and allocate labor accordingly. This helps us make more efficient use of our resources. At the same time, a sound knowledge of concrete fundamentals yields the best-quality finished product and drastically reduces callbacks. Because the crew often is not well-versed in the fundamentals, workers may overfinish concrete to achieve the desired effect or fail to properly cure it. The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, the Portland Cement Association (PCA), and the American Concrete Institute all have information on concrete fundamentals and hot- and cold-weather concrete practices producers can use for training. Training contractors in these most common concrete problem areas yields the greatest savings for the least time invested. Using an association's or institute's expertise gives you credibility. Attending an expert's presentation with your customers builds your confidence for making your own future presentations. A perfect time for training is at a prepour meeting. KEYWORDS: value-added marketing, training