From homeowners delaying repairs to employees working remotely, COVID-19 is a challenge for every contractor. Many of the basic processes and procedures we used before the pandemic are no longer considered safe, while the uncertainty of the situation makes it difficult for potential customers to make decisions regarding home repairs or upgrades. As you’re well aware, many businesses have not been able to survive the downturn in the economy caused by this pandemic, including both large and small contracting firms.
The truth is, the need for our services is not going away. COVID-19 may challenge us to change and adapt the way we do business, but business must be done. Here are my tips for keeping your business thriving during these difficult times.
Stay focused on your goals, processes and systems
The sad reality is that the world around us is different now than it was 6 months ago. Even though that’s the case, the services you sell to a client will basically remain the same, while the process will need to be changed.
Your first step is to rethink the parts of your administrative process that require face-to-face contact. Which of these processes can now be conducted via Zoom, or through social distancing protocols at your office? Which procedures can be handled through emails, phone calls or texts? Can you use DocuSign or another e-signature service for contracts instead of sitting down with a client for contract signings?
Think about how the changes will have to apply through the entire workflow of a typical job. What you’ll probably find is that construction is an industry that still operates as it did before. With some very minor adaptations, you can stay on track of all the processes necessary for a successful job.
Have a plan for safety
This will be one of the first questions your potential customer will have: how are you keeping myself and my family safe during construction or repairs? For most states, construction was deemed “essential” early on. However, you still need a plan for how your team will social distance on jobsites, how they protect themselves and how they keep clients safe.
These can be basic precautions, and many of them are already clearly spelled out by your state. Go online and study the regulations for your area, then put a written plan in place and familiarize your staff with it. Clients will appreciate that you have considered these items and that you have a plan that includes COVID precautions.
Remember that people’s needs have not changed, just their expectation of you
Unfortunately, storm season won’t stop for COVID, so many homeowners have no other choice but to work with insurance companies and contractors to get their homes repaired. Nothing has changed there. The only thing that has changed is their view of the world and the precautions that surround the job.
Fortunately, this means your customers are ready to adapt. They know the process will be different, just as going to the supermarket or ordering food from a restaurant is different now. But they will turn to you for guidance. See the point above – it is your responsibility to know the required precautions that must be in place, then present yourself as an authority to your customers. They are ready to trust you, though trust must be earned.
Set clear tasks for your remote teams
Your sales reps and production folks are likely to be going about their roles in “business as usual” mode (with the addition of masks and sanitizer) since they are probably already field-based. In earlier posts, we talked about “scripts” that your sales team use to help close a job. Make sure these scripts are updated with your new protocols for business during COVID-19, and have your teams emphasize this first with potential customers.
Pay special attention to how follow-up is tasked with your sales teams. The old saying, “out of sight, out of mind” applies here. Less direct contact with a potential customer means the less likely your company (and your bid) is top of mind. Emails, calls and texts may need to take the place of follow-up by visit or appointment.
The good news is your administrative team can work remotely and be managed very simply with a task list. In fact, if you already have processes in place for how the things in your organization are done, this can be one of the easiest things to accomplish on this list.
Embrace the New Normal and get back to work!
COVID-19 has definitely changed our world. The way we did business before all of this will likely take a long time to get back to, and even then, some things will remain changed forever.
But the New Normal also presents opportunities. Restrictions on travel, extra precautions being put in place that make it seem more difficult to work, as well as a general atmosphere of excuses about why people can’t get business are all golden opportunities for you and your business to thrive. One way or another, you WILL interact with customers, vendors, suppliers and other contractors (who’ll be pleasantly surprised that you’re not locked away in your home); you WILL have people scoff at you knocking at their door, and you WILL have to adapt to a new environment. But if you get out, get back to work, get back to moving your business forward, you WILL be successful and survive this.