Adapt + Pivot: How Home Builders and Contractors are Responding to a Global CrisisKevin Dugan
As everyone shelters in place, the industry moves forward – together
Industry professionals from across North America shared how they are responding to the global pandemic during AeroBarrier’s recent panel discussion. And while business activity varies from city to city, some common themes emerged.
Trades Adapt Quickly in the Field
While construction projects in some cities have been forced to stop, others continue – by closely following a new layer of health and safety rules.
“It’s easier for smaller residential construction companies to continue working,” said Mike Ardeljan, Owner of Dream Home Building & Design in Bend, Oregon. “We can switch up our approach to meet mandated behavior changes more easily than others.”
And with OSHA and various local authorities closely monitoring compliance, it pays to be proactive.
“Most sites limit access to one trade at a time,” said Matthew Cooper, Senior Vice President for PEG LLC in Fairfax, Virginia. “So we’re being proactive, as are builders, to ensure field inspections can continue.”
“The industry is being proactive to ensure field inspections can continue during the COVID-19 crisis without jeopardizing anyone’s health and safety.”
While health and safety is always the top priority, these changes are also finding new efficiencies for contractors.
“We’ve shifted division of labor around to compensate for changes,” said Ross MacPherson, Operations Manager for New England Air Barrier in Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts. “And our teams know, first and foremost, to stop work if they feel unsafe in any way. The unforeseen productivity gains that have come from this are being adopted permanently.”
Crisis Sharpens Focus on Cash Flow
Like every business during the crisis, panelists are reconsidering short- and long-term financial scenarios.
“We’re seeing work pause, or push out, instead of stop,” said Scott Stevens, President of Air Sealing Professionals in Ontario, Canada. “Aging and terms are being stretched. Even our best customers, who’ve set up direct deposit, are pushing out. Like any business, this means an exacting focus on cash flow is critical.”
In addition to following up on all government subsidies and revisiting internal costs, panelists suggest being proactive with customers about accounts receivables.
“Collaborating with customers and being creative about payments is key,” said Stevens. “We are quick to acknowledge cash flow is tough for everyone right now. We’re not trying to offend customers we’re trying to keep employees on the payroll.”
“We acknowledge cash flow is tough for everyone and that we’re not trying to offend customers, we’re trying to keep employees on the payroll.”
And as everyone responds to immediate issues, the industry will sure to emerge from this crisis with stronger business continuity plans.
“Whether or not you a plan in place, there are helpful resources to help you with business continuity,” said Cooper. “Start by conducting a SWOT analysis, looking at business risks. How will you maintain HR, payroll, cash flow, and how will your supply chain be impacted? PEG LLC has a plan in place, but you learn things executing it you don’t consider initially so we’re updating it.”
Make Time for an Operational Refresh
Panelists are also investing time in process improvement. Even taking the time to update your CRM data, for example, yields multiple benefits.
“Your CRM is only as good as the data behind it,” said Brian Cooke, Director of Sales and Marketing for AeroBarrier of Canada in Ontario. “We cleaned up our data, identifying several people we were overdue in contacting. And most of them reengaged with us. Taking this time to improve and making the most of the tools and resources you already have in place will prove valuable well after the crisis.”
Selling Doesn’t Stop, It Shifts
Every sales cycle disrupted by the coronavirus has been lengthened. But it’s important to adjust your approach during a time of crisis.
“We’re focused on being as flexible and helpful as possible right now,” said Cooke. “And by staying positive and having a future-focused mindset, you will see results. They can’t build right now. So how can you help them be even better once that changes?”
All the panelists are shifting their focus in some fashion.
“Now more than ever, we see indoor air quality being a bigger homeowner concern than energy savings,” said Ardeljan. “The link between indoor air quality and health is even tighter as a result of this crisis. We’re preparing a new response to our homeowner’s changing demands.”
Networking Keeps Us Connected
In some ways, the quarantine is increasing personal contact. As stay at home orders increase our availability, business networking is a much simpler and more efficient task. Panelists note this outreach will be even more important as the crisis plays out.
“We reach out to our network and local officials as much as possible to stay on top of changes in our market,” said MacPherson. “Our local NAHB chapter has been extremely helpful as they’re able to follow new policies and changes more closely.”
“Network with local officials and your local NAHB to stay on top of changes in your market. They’re able to follow new policies and ongoing changes more closely.”
Thoughts, Prayers & Preparations
While global disruption and tragic events are at the heart of this crisis, panelists agreed on the importance of moving forward — together.
“The health and safety of our employees and customers is at the center of our focus at all times,” said Stevens. “It is this focus that requires us to move forward. We are hopeful the industry will come through this crisis with a new level of flexibility.”
The COVID-19 crisis will likely take months, not weeks, to subside. But one thing is clear: while we must respond to an unprecedented period of forced change, the future holds hope for everyone.