The Pandemic Is Tough, But It Offers Positives, Opportunities
authors Doug King | August 18, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe, and the United States ranks highest in the number of reported cases. Our country, from corner to corner, is undergoing economic challenges at differing stages, but one thing in common is that most businesses are struggling.
You might be located in an area where you can work on a very limited basis. Or you might work in an area that is going “all out.” Either scenario provides an opportunity to retool—to get creative in order to serve your customer base more efficiently.
However, there are positives to point out. Sales of existing homes are up in 45 of the top 50 markets, nationwide, in both May and June. Furthermore, according to one new analysis from Zillow, the typical home sold in June has had an offer accepted within 22 days of it being listed. That is the fastest homes have sold since the summer of 2018. Now, some cities do have homes that take longer to sale but, in 29 of the top 35 markets, homes are selling faster in June 2020 versus June 2018.
This bodes well for remodeling because a large majority of these buyers will need the services of a remodeling professional. So, what’s hot? Well, based on what families have been going through during quarantine, they need more space inside, more privacy while working from home, and they want to get outdoors. Plus, homeowners have spent a lot of time observing the shape and quality of their home, and they realize many updates are needed before they can get back to entertaining friends.
If you’re not already receiving requests for projects that include outdoor features—and I don’t just mean siding and windows and doors but covered decks and porches (we call these lanais in Florida) and outdoor kitchens and water features in pools—you might want to shift your sales message through whichever marketing channel(s) you use. If your business already focuses on these areas, you are sitting in the right church pew and are probably enjoying a surge in the need for your services. Remodeling contractors, take note, partner up with these specialty outdoor companies.
One thing I know is that our industry can pivot quickly because the base products already exist to meet this shift in demand for outdoor living. We just need to take homeowners’ desires and mix in our expertise to steer remodeling design and sales to meet the market needs. Another strategic move you might consider is to reduce the minimum dollar-size job you typically pursue. A small repair could lead to a large, six-figure job later, and later might only be months away.
Opportunities for Suppliers Too
If you are a supplier of products and services on a b-to-b basis, there’s a good chance your bread is buttered by meeting with clients face-to-face in your showroom, your client offices or in the field. You may have found that in-person model isn’t working the way it did prior to March of this year. Maybe you relied on networking groups and events to promote your products. With events shut down, what can you do? Obviously, you need to stay connected and keep your name out in front of your clients.
The best salespeople in any industry will tell you they excel because they solve problems for their clients. Now, you do not have to be a salesperson to solve problems, but you do need to reach out to your clients. Ask one simple question: “What could I do that would make your job easier right now?”
You will probably get all kinds of responses; but listen and then act. I am in no position to tell you how to react, it’s your business and you will figure it out. But whatever you do, as long as you do take action, you will raise the value of your company in your client’s eyes; and they will not soon forget what you did for them, especially now as emotions and tensions are running high. Be sure you clearly communicate how you will operate when and where human interaction will occur. A COVID-19 operating statement has become paramount, and most people expect to see a policy in place.
The remodeling industry is very fragmented, and many businesses consist of just one or two people. The landscape can appear very lonely in times like this, and it is human nature to seek an outlet to share concerns and learn new ideas. Those outlets are most often trade associations but, in most areas, associations are unable to hold gatherings now and for the foreseeable future.
But many of these groups, such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), are sharing ideas via e-mails and conference calls, and they offer webinars and smaller group virtual meetings where ideas and tips are being traded at a speed that would make Flash Gordon envious. I highly encourage any remodeling business to get involved with at least one, if not several, remodeling trade associations. They might need your intelligence more than you need them. Stay safe. QR
Doug King, CR, MBA, is president of NARI. King has been a general contractor for over 25 years and owns a full-service remodeling firm, King Contracting, Inc., in St. Petersburg, Florida.