Seizing Business Opportunities During the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Rob Haddock, CEO & founder, S-5!® Metal Roof Innovations, Ltd.
(Editor’s Note: Rob Haddock, the inventor of metal roof attachment solutions, is an award-winning roof forensics expert, author, lecturer, and building envelope scientist. He has worked in various aspects of metal roofing for nearly five decades. For more information, visit www.s-5.com)
The greatest economic boom period in history seems to have come to an abrupt slowdown, but there are things you can do now to keep your business afloat and well positioned for the future. While business today is anything but normal, it also provides companies with an opportunity to react for the near term, manage differently, and maybe even more effectively. Use this downtime to shift thinking, redirect resources, and prepare for the pent-up demand of Q3-4.
At the time of this writing, a variety of polls indicate 20-25% of building projects planned for 2020 have been stalled, but not canceled. Although the restart date is unknown with certainty, it appears likely that controlled loosening will begin May-June, which will result in a rush starting in July to get things done before winter and the year’s end. If you begin to wring your hands now and get too bearish rather than plan for the rush, where will you be when it happens?
Companies need to remain prudent right now, but still bullish and ready for the demand that will unleash mid-summer through the end of the year. Prudent assessments of market conditions should be evaluated weekly as this landscape evolves. Don’t put yourself in a position to miss an opportunity as it presents itself. The ripples that manifest in the longer haul are still unpredictable, so don’t spend creative energy worrying about it. Casualties are tragic, but it will be over at some point. Prepare instead for the nearer term and think about the rest as it unfolds.
Financial markets are still flush with cash and are eager to place it. Interest rates are low, low, low. Legislators and lenders alike are keenly interested in keeping this economy moving, so the near and mid-term prognosis is good for economic re-generation. Building permitting and even inspections are now being conducted remotely in many cases. In the coming weeks and months, new norms of doing business will be established.
Use this time to get all your ducks in a row. Of course, your sales might look different right now, but there are ways to get creative with the sales process. Simply change the way you do it. Sales teams are now operating virtually, but are still staying in front of customers with video conferencing and webinars. They are using social media to draw traffic. Offer your customers free educational webinars that also tout your brand and service. Brush up your website to make it more user friendly with plenty of product information. Some of these shifts may be here to stay long after COVID-19.
We have started offering educational webinars at S-5!, and the response has been overwhelming. It serves multiple purposes, including allowing you to stay in front of your customers, educate them on your product range, train them on how to use your products, and it also establishes you as the thought leader in your industry. It’s an opportunity to generate business. It also saves a pile of money and time over air travel.
Offer live question-and-answer sessions for your customers. Distribute a short survey prior to your webinar so you have talking points relevant to your customers’ need for information. Again, this helps to demonstrate your leadership in the industry.
Avoid cutting staff if possible. In fact, it is important right now to hold on to good employees, as we all know they are hard to find. It was only a few months ago that the number one issue facing the construction industry was the labor shortage. In fact, one of the silver linings of this pandemic could be helping to solve the labor shortage issue that has existed for the past couple of years.
Stay ahead of the game. Our manufacturing plant is in full swing, and when inbound orders taper off, we will continue to build inventory. But, we are implementing some pragmatic changes, including growing the automation side, taking temperatures of our employees, sanitizing effectively, spending time educating our personnel on COVID-19, and emphasizing the importance of applying the expected code of conduct both at work and outside work. We will be ready for the other side of this pandemic. We will not just go through it, we will grow through it. If you utilize these tips in your own business, you will be just fine.