This New World Brings New Realities to Recognize and Leverage

by Kyle Clapham

Almost all remodelers have been seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It happened fast. Unlike past economic downturns, which gave us signs and warnings of what was to come, this came on like a tsunami and quickly flipped a prospering and promising remodeling economy on its head. Although I am confident that this too shall pass, I want to point out a few things that are very important for you as business owners to consider as you try to work through the current challenges on our way back to what will become the new normal.

The Old Normal Is History

Every time we, as a country, experience a serious challenge, what we once knew as normal goes away. We must assume the old normal will never return. Things will be different. Don’t sit back and wait for the old normal to return. It won’t. Use this time to rethink your business as well as your role in it. Keep an eye on the news and what is happening around you. That way, as conditions improve, you can actually take strategic advantage of whatever new normal that will present itself.

Time to Make a Choice

You might choose to invest your energies and emotions into complaining about it. There will be plenty to complain about by the time this pandemic passes. But think of how draining that will be for you and those around you. This will waste time and you won’t be ready for the new normal.

On the other hand, you could redirect your energy to get ready for all the new potential opportunities your business might consider. Examples include swapping out poorly performing staff, training employees to use RRP (government-mandated lead-safe) work practices on jobsites. This would enable employees to protect themselves and your clients. You could also put strategic marketing in place to enable you to charge enough money to develop and accumulate your own retirement funds. The options are many, but it’s up to you to determine how to proceed into the new normal. In these challenging times, make your business better than it once was.

Did You Have a Business or a Job?

Years ago, a remodeler told me he thought he had a really good business. That is, he said, “until he started working with me.” He came to realize that running a successful and sustainable business had more to do with being a smart owner than being a good craftsman. Initially, he told me there was just too much work to do to make all the suggested changes; after all, he still had a business to run. He said it would be great if he could just shut the business down for a few months and put all the new stuff in place, but that was just not practical.

Think about it. With business severely limited and most of the world shut down, right now might be the time for many remodelers to use this time to finally put in place the things they should have already done for their growing businesses long ago.

If you’ve been too busy to work on your business, you might want to consider if you really have a business. Perhaps you really, up until now, had just a job. A real and sustainable business charges enough to develop a reserve fund available for when business challenges present themselves. A real and sustainable business doesn’t depend on the owner being there every minute to micromanage everything. A real and sustainable business has systems and procedures in place to empower employees to act on their own within their respective job positions.

At a real and sustainable businesses, the owner has metrics to know things are under control; that way, the owner doesn’t always have to be in control. If you have a business with several employees, but do not have written job descriptions, it’s probably another sign it’s not sustainable and that you are a micromanager.

This Will Happen Again

Due to my age, I’ve been through many challenging times. There was the recession of the 1990s, the September 11th attacks, the Great Recession of 2008 and now we have the COVID-19 pandemic. Each one made me, my employees and my businesses stronger. Severe business challenges are not new. Many remodelers simply assume they can just make it through the current challenge, then everything will come back to normal.

Instead, assume that other similar and uncontrollable events will happen again. Will you be ready? Or will you again be caught off guard? Will you be as ready as possible with contingency plans to address future challenges? Will you have a reserve fund of cash to help you get through it?

As a last thought consider the possibility that for some of you, being a business owner may not be the best thing for you and your family’s future. You might be better off finding a job. Maybe your trade skills would really be appreciated at someone else’s business. Maybe as an employee you would make more money than you have as a business owner.

Deciding to close your business and become an employee doesn’t have to be viewed as a failure, but rather as an opportunity for a new and better life in what will become known as the new normal. The great part about being an American is that you get to make this decision. At the same time, you will be responsible for your decisions regardless of the outcome. QR

McCadden is a speaker, business trainer, columnist and award-winning remodeler with more than 35 years of experience. He can be reached at

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