Unprecedented times. Unprecedented situations. Hell, there are days I feel like we’ve entered the Twilight Zone and the darn story isn’t ending.
I know my title is harsh but it’s true. Everyone out there is TOO BUSY to make a phone call directly to you to see if you’re ok. You have to find a way to be an advocate of your business. You’re going to have to save yourself.
After you’re done reeling from the changes, and making sure your family is situated, are you ready to work? We’ve been given a chance to do the work that will take you to the other side and allow you to emerge* after the pandemic is over.
*I wanted to add something after that word “emerge,” but I just didn’t have an answer. The truth is I hope you emerge healthy. I hope you emerge stronger. Honestly, I just hope most of us can survive this. I’m sending you ALL, strength, perseverance, GRIT, and respect. We certainly deserve all of this for running a company right now.
Ok – down to business. All of this is a moving target and there are NO EASY answers. The best thing I can give you is to boil down what I’ve experienced in the past few weeks and try to make this categorically understandable. You’re still going to have to do a lot of work.
Here are my top 6 recommendations:
Establish an Advisory team
YOU are not the best source of information about this moving train. Surround yourself with experts in the field who are doing what THEY do best. Allow yourself to be guided. Make sure they are staying up on the daily changes. You need a Legal advisor. You need a Human Resources advisor. You need a Payroll advisor. You need a State advisor. You need a Financial advisor. In my opinion, this is the minimum team you need, and some people can fill multiple roles for you. Some organizations can provide this information for you as well.
Do your best to keep your company in compliance
There are MANY levels of compliance affecting us right now. Federal, State, City, County. This is a moving target, depending on where you live. You need to find out how to know who’s pushing the hardest in your area. Is the City enforcing but the State doesn’t care? Is the County providing all of your guidance or is it State?
Look to your local trade organizations for guidance in your industry. Look around if you haven’t joined. I’ve found that a few organizations have bubbled up as more adept at informing me of the changes than others. You need to plug into someone who is updating information DAILY. Some examples are the Building Industry Association, the Roofing Contractors Association of Washington (my state's association) and there are many others. Pay attention to industry affiliates like Professional Roofing, RoofersCoffeeShop® or manufacturers like GAF – they’re working hard to help too.
Look to your national organizations as well, although membership there can be more expensive, they’re REALLY worth it now. Our National Roofing Contractors Association has been invaluable for our state battle with Washington – one of only 2 states that didn’t list construction as an essential business.
Protect your workers in the field. Make sure you’re supplying them with paperwork necessary to document them being in a truck driving around. What do they need? I gave my guys a copy of the Governor’s proclamation about construction. I asked for a compliance letter from my Attorney. Trent Cotney from Cotney Law is one of THE BEST Attorneys I’ve ever come across. He has been a HUGE part of my advisory team. Make sure you update them as more information becomes available.
Supply your employees with proper information. Remember there is NO common sense right now. Tell them how to know what COVID-19 looks like and what to do (find an organization who issued guidance) when they or a loved one experiences symptoms. Tell them how to sterilize a truck or tool that someone else will need. Give people in your organization SPECIFIC guidance on how to handle this craziness to the best of your ability. Again, use the organizations for help, use the SBA for help, look outside your company or even your industry. Companies have a lot of similar needs for guidance right now.
Know your Human Resources requirements and new benefit changes. Understand how to lay someone off, and what’s required to let someone go. Again, plug in where you can if this isn’t your area of expertise.
Know your financials
This is a time for understanding where your money comes from and where it goes when it leaves. Not your forte? HIRE a professional. Can’t afford it? You can’t afford not to at this point.
Who HAS to be paid and who can wait (find out what’s happening nationally with loan or lease payment requirements)? What services are fluff and can be canceled saving you valuable money. How much PROFIT (sales – expense = profit) you make on a job. MORE work isn’t necessarily better. After all expenses are paid, how much money is in your pocket after each job?
Don’t stop selling
One of the first things people do when things get tight is they stop selling. You HAVE to keep money coming in the doors. Evaluation of your current system, however, is mandatory. Just because you’ve always done something one way, doesn’t mean it has to continue in this current environment. BE CREATIVE. How can you reach people? What do they care about? Why do they care? This is a GREAT time to become a student of your customer finding out who they are, why they buy, and what you offer to them.
NOW is the time to connect with your customers as well. After you know them, reach out with relevant information for them. Give them a reason to remember you after this is over.
Modify your contracts
Do your contracts protect you now that the world has gone crazy? Do you take down payments? Do you have language that says what happens if you’re ordered not to work? Many of us didn’t but going forward you should. Consult with legal advisors on this. Communicate with your customers on the NECESSARY changes. Learn what has gone wrong for others and do what you can to protect you, your employees and your company.
Take care of yourself
Remember, an empty vessel can’t fill anything. YOU are the leader of a company and most likely you have people depending on you. Take time for yourself when you can. Eat healthy. Drink lots of water. Give yourself a tool (your body) that you can rely on during these stressful times. REST when you need to. Everyone processes stress and change differently. Take moments of down time to recharge.
There’s a whole community out there just wanting to connect. Don’t be an island during this difficult time. You’re not “just” a roofing company, you’re a business owner. Engage with your local Chamber chapters. Join a group on Facebook or LinkedIn. Most businesses are experiencing the same craziness you are, find someone you can learn from. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.
I hope this has helped a little. I’ll see you on the other side.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Sending you health from afar.
Wendy Marvin is CEO of Matrix Roofing. See her full bio here.