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Executive Summary

In early 2008, Sander Coovert was feeling pretty good about his business, Absolute Tile and Stone. The previous year had ended with sales up 27%, to $2.8 million, at the St. Louis company, which cuts tile and slabs of marble and granite and installs them in residential kitchens and bathrooms. That year Coovert, 40, saw his largest profit ever. But by the end of 2008, as the housing bubble burst and the recession hit, revenue dropped to $2.1 million and the company lost money. Marketing has always been a problem at the 15-person firm.

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