Surviving Home Improvement Month

authors Aaron Enfinger | May 18, 2020

A quote from Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” comes to my mind as the epitaph of 2020 – “It was the best of times it was the worst of times…” I remember it was a short time ago when I saw numerous pictures on social media of New Year’s Eve parties with a Roaring 20’s theme. These parties were an homage to a time of prosperity and abundance, when a similar sense of optimism was in the atmosphere. As many in the remodeling industry were in the planning stages for another incredible record-breaking year, an invisible enemy was rapidly changing our plans for Q2 and beyond. Our focus had to immediately shift from the expectation of thriving to merely surviving. It seems like Charles Dickens was reading the news from 2020!

Everyone’s plan for 2020 has been scraped

Therefore, in order to survive in this market, planning is key. We have all been forced to pivot and find a new way through this unexpected time.

Crises change our operational landscape quickly by causing the ground beneath our feet to shift. The path that was so clear before has now disappeared. As this shift occurs, we must pivot and change the direction we were going. Business owners and leaders response to the crisis should be in proportion to the size and swiftness of it. Therefore, our biggest responsibility is to quickly find new ways to survive and meet the shifting needs of our clients.

May is National Home Improvement Month and for those of us in the remodeling industry this can dovetail well with our survival plans. The theme of the month gives us the opportunity to reach out to all of our cheerleader clients from the past and check in on them. This is not a sales call per se, but since people are spending unprecedented amount of time in their homes, we are in a unique position to help them if and when the need arises. And those needs will surly arise!

Prepare some educational resources

A small sample of a few are:

  • spring cleaning check lists,
  • tips and tricks for small DiY projects,
  • tree and plant health, and
  • hardscape maintenance.

Even create some videos of you and your staff doing things on the jobsite or at your homes that are informative, helpful and educational. Post these videos on your company’s YouTube page and direct your clients there. Get creative and assemble some information unique to your region that has the client’s and their home’s interest in mind. Reach out and remind your clients why they rely on and love what you do for them.

Keep in mind that the content and information must be about them and their needs, not yours. However, reaching out to them will remind them of you and keep you on top of their mind. By the way, reminding your clients that you are here for them and how awesome you are should be a part of any plan and not just right now in a time of crisis. So, don’t forget about this once the crisis is in the rear view.

It may be time to expand your product offerings

It is imperative to stay true to your core competencies and not to chase shiny object projects. But, definitely be flexible on the types of projects that you will take. Even if something is not in your sweet spot, remain open to find a way to meet the needs of your clients with respect to their home maintenance and repair. Performing time and material maintenance and service projects might be a great way to keep the field staff busy enough to meet payroll and overhead – since you have worked so hard to assemble a great A-Team you don’t want to lose them! Home decorating services could help keep the design staff working if typical Design-Build work is slow in recovering.

While these newer product offerings might help, only fools rush in. Take the necessary time to make sure that what you do you do deliberately, intentionally and profitably.

Another word of caution

Resist the temptation to keep personnel on the payroll cleaning the shop or building random projects to keep guys busy. All you are doing is burning through the critical cash reserves. Be compassionate but don’t be foolish. This is the time to make some hard choices. Cutting staff, changing spending priorities to preserve cash might be necessary. Ultimately, you must survive.

A quote from another 19th century thought leader serves as a prescient message to us today. Do not get caught flat footed. While stay at home orders may be over or close to over, we are by no means out of this crisis. Use the backdrop of Home Improvement month to make some improvements in your own “home” too! Ensure that you survive 2020 to thrive in 2021 and beyond. QR.

Aaron Enfinger, CR, has been in residential construction for 23 years and is currently the general manager at The Cleary Company in Columbus, Ohio. Aaron has served on the finance committee, education committee and the certification board for NARI at the national level.

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