With the Olympics and U.S. Open tennis championships just concluded, I am still well within the statute of limitations on using a sports analogy to make a business point–especially a tennis analogy.

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So here goes: Many of today's tennis pros are content to rely on their power games and play from back at the baseline, getting into long rallies, waiting for their opponents to make a mistake. That's sort of a business-as-usual strategy for contractors. But tennis stars win more points when they fight their way to the net and position themselves to hit winners, especially when they realize that "business as usual" isn't working, and they need to change their game plan.

There's no doubt that today's business climate requires a different game plan–we can't just hang back and conduct business as usual. Especially with the costs of everything from fuel to nails increasing every time you turn around, protecting your own "net"–as in net profits–must become a passion within your company.

Here are some ideas you can put into action today to help you with your own "net" play.

Fuel. Every time you or your crews fill up on gas and diesel, you take a hit. Your net play here includes the usual advice about regular tuneups and checking tire pressure, but there are other, newer options that can take you further.

If you're leasing gas-guzzlers for your business, replace them with newer fuel-efficient models when the time comes, and explore if you can negotiate out of your leases to make the change sooner. Also, do not run out for materials; instead, put the burden on your suppliers to deliver materials to your jobsites. Not only will it save you fuel costs, but it keeps workers on the job where they belong. And if your crews travel together to your jobsites, consider changing your work week to four 10-hour days, maximizing the amount of work your crew can do while reducing your fuel and vehicle costs.

Tools and equipment. You can't work without your tools. And if you're like me, being a contractor is simply professional permission to buy new tools any time you feel like it (I mean...when I really, really needed them). But economic conditions are changing that for a lot of contractors, who are holding on longer to their old tools by paying more attention to maintenance and service. So while sales are down in the U.S., some of my tool-store buddies tell me their service departments are busier than ever. I've also noticed a higher profile from tool manufacturers that promote sales of reconditioned models at great savings. This could be a good way to get new models, under warranty, for a lot less.

We've all been forced to change our game plans. A lot of the best practices you can adopt may be basics you've ignored or overlooked. But some of your best moves could come from the best tennis players in the world: Fight for every winning shot–and cover the net.