Curiousity has killed the cat! In another award winning thread, someone stated: "I am an authorized contractor for the biggest local distributor. I also didn't spend $200 to buy a certificate from you know who." Not sure what that means. Do you mean ICPI certification? I'm not 100% sold on that either. Its like the cell phone industry, they have done a good job of convincing the average consumer that WE NEED cell phones. How on earth did folks function without them back in the 50's! I can list another example of something we dont need, but I'd guess 23 - 26% of the folks here have one, and then a big debate will break loose! So we don't need to go that route. Gettin back on subject, our market here has changed drastically over the last 24 months. Competition is trippled. Consumers are shopping shopping shopping. So this leaves me with many choices. 1) lower my prices and compete with these lawn jockeys turned wanna be block heads 2) take steps and market to a level of people that appreciate detail, appreciate craftsmanship, and that have expendable income. I like number 2. But after seeking counsel from people in my area affiliated with the *sales* side of the market, I have concluded that in order for number 2 to work for us, I need to become affiliated AND active with select trade associations on a national level. Its the networking with others that will hopefully payoff. Its showing prospective clients that we do in fact take our industry seriously. Everything in life is contigent on attitude. If you wanna loose weight, you'll never do it and MAINTAIN it by despising running or doing activities that give you a good cardio work out. If you want a romance to last, the desire to make it last has to be there. Same with business. To be in certain places of growth and profitability, you need to be willing to make changes and WANT to do whatever it takes, and you need to think outside of the box. Even though I admit I have some reasons why I don't buy into ICPI 100%, I'm planning on spending a fair amount of money in 2007 for trade organization memberships. And what to achieve by doing so is I hope to accomplish some serious networking with other contractors affiliated with the landscape industry, yet that do not offer hardscape construction.