Martha Rose says she has been building houses "on spec" for almost four decades, but over the past three years she has lost money on nearly every one. Facing a cash-flow crisis, Rose switched from paid staff to on-demand contractors, and she says she doesn't miss the cost or complexity of payroll taxes, workers' comp and so forth. "I can't see having a business that is that complicated again," she says. "The idea is to get leaner and meaner, not literally meaner, but to get your business down to bare essentials."
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