Building industry professionals are in a time of uncertainty when it comes to how COVID-19 will affect their businesses and how to prepare themselves for inevitable challenges in the short and long term.
To address the common issues pros are concerned about head-on, provide peer perspectives and offer the type of advice pros are seeking during this time, LP reached out to longtime builders and remodelers to compile a Q&A.
Q: How do you think COVID-19 might affect the building industry?
Kyle Stumpenhorst, owner of Rural Renovators in Dixon, Illinois: I think the building industry in general will take a setback as far as projects done inside the house. People might still feel comfortable with outdoor projects, but I also hope this is all short term.
Jordan Smith, a professional contractor specializing in new construction and owner of Jordan Smith Builds in Austin, Texas: It will definitely have an impact, but the severity and timing is still unknown and will probably vary depending on specialty. I am hopeful that the economy will come back strong and that construction will continue the upward trend we were experiencing before the pandemic, but time will tell.
Brent Taylor, remodeler and owner of O.C. Taylor in Raleigh, North Carolina: Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak will affect everyone in one way or another. Some sectors are worse than others. New construction jobs in the works will continue. New job starts will fall (hopefully temporarily). This will have a lot to do with each market’s demands in regards to housing shortages.
Kyle Miller, owner of All Around Construction in Golden Valley, Minnesota: The construction industry as a whole will definitely take a hit from the economic circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. On the residential side, there is a noticeable decrease in the amount of new customer inquiries for home improvements. On a larger scale, governments are reallocating funds and resources to combat the virus and other infrastructure that may be more critical than certain construction projects.
Q: What potential worries do you have as a building industry business owner?
Kyle Stumpenhorst: My biggest concern is making sure I am still able to receive my supplies as I typically work away from clients and not in their home All we can do as business owners is keep our calm with crews and customers during a time of anxiety and uncertainty.
Kyle Miller: Most importantly, we are concerned about the health and well-being of our team, their families, and our community as a whole. We are doing everything we can to help those around us make it through this difficult time. As a business, we are taking the situation day by day and trying not to let emotions affect our ability to make wise decisions.
John Babcock, seasoned remodeler and owner of renovationPLUS in Carmel, Indiana: Meeting payroll, keeping crews busy, safe and supporting their families are at the top of my list. With this, as a business owner, I’m maintaining an optimistic approach to keep the morale up and my crew doing their best work for themselves and their families.
Q: What advice do you give builders to prepare them for success as we are in the midst of a crisis?
Kyle Stumpenhorst: For me, social media has done wonders for my business. If you have the spare time, maybe now is the time to focus on building your social media presence as a business and as a builder. You also have to think about the fact that people are spending a lot more time on social media, so maybe it’s a good time to switch from typical ads or emails to promotions on your social channels.
Kyle Miller: We have done well in keeping a large cash reserve and not relying on lines of credit to fund projects. At this time, we are very confident in our ability to fully recover from any short-term loss of income. Try not to let emotions and skepticism get in the way of making wise decisions, and to respect the space and time of customers. The COVID-19 virus will run its course and we will have ample time on the other side to rebuild. For now, evaluate your budget and scale back discretionary spending as much as possible. The more cash you have in reserves, the longer you will be able to operate.
Q: What resources are helpful during this time?
John Babcock: Rather than focusing on (some) sensationalized news feeds, look into information around “relief” packages, furlough requirements, etc.—things that are pertinent to your business during this time. I’d also look to fellow business owners and simply ask what they are doing to keep their businesses going. Following by example can be a huge help, especially if the owners have survived and thrived after previous economic downturns.
Brent Taylor: Personally, I’d look at your manufacturer loyalty program offerings and how to utilize them. Could they help to offer you more leads during this time? Could you be brushing up on product training or installation training for new products? Could they be helping you with new marketing materials? As a longtime member of the LP® BuildSmart™ Preferred Contractor Program, I know they offer all these things. This slow(er) time is the perfect time to really utilize these types of resources.
Q: What advice do you have to maintaining a healthy focus on your business?
Jordan Smith: Hang in there and take it day by day. This pandemic is affecting the whole population, not just builders, and some sectors are more severely impacted at the moment than builders (the service industry for example). Stress, fear and worry can’t change a thing. We are all in this together and will get through it together. During slow(er) times, I also recommend looking at how to streamline your business. Take the time to build out current procedures and examine how to improve upon them or even pivot during this time period.
Brent Taylor: Being in the existing home exterior remodeling side of things potentially gives me an advantage with this pandemic. First of all, siding and roofing are performed on the exterior of a home. This does not disrupt a client’s family like a kitchen or bath remodel. I can perform estimates from the exterior of a home, maintaining social distancing. All other paperwork can be done online via email. For those who do work on interior renovations, I’d ask yourselves if you can look at other remodeling projects (not inside the home) or use this time to plan for the long term. I’d also say, don’t get discouraged—we will get through this.
Interested in more pro perspectives and advice? Check out @lp_pros for videos from builders on COVID-19 and stay tuned for more opportunities to learn from the pros on our website and social channels.