How Tile Contractors are adjusting to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Tile Contractors around the world are all facing similar challenges right now. COVID-19 has completely disrupted their lives, some are out of work and some are pivoting and working on new projects and learning new materials to remain busy.
How has the installation industry been impacted and what lessons can we learn from this experience?
Identifying and knowing how to attract your ideal clients will save your business now and in the future.
Take for example Dirk Sullivan, owner of Hawthorne Tile. Dirk told me “I have noticed that the type of people who are calling us and scheduling work are the ideal type of clients we want to work with. They are calculated with their thought process and know exactly what they want.”
I guarantee that these people are calling Dirk because of his strong online professional presence. While he admits that the calls have slowed down, he also noted that the quality has gone way up and people who are calling are ready to buy!
So now is not the time to shy away from marketing yourself as the leading professional in your area. This will strengthen your business now and always, your desired clients will continue to be very fastidious about who they are hiring this year.
Having PPE and a published jobsite safety plan has never been more important.
The tile contractors who had PPE on hand and were accustomed to using it did not have to adjust too much. They were ready to take some extra precautions and communicated this with their clients and it has paid off in dividends.
Isaac Ostrom, owner of O.Tile, is using some great processes to relieve his clients fears, “We have had porta potties delivered to each job site, and we are not going into any area of the home other than the work site. We have installed plastic sheeting corridors leading to the work site, and have been communicating with clients via text and FaceTime. At the end of each day we wipe down all door handles, etc. with Clorox wipes which we normally stock. It is by employing these measures and effectively communicating them to my clients that I was able to calm their fears and continue to work.”
When it comes to timelines, start thinking further out.
You need to assume that every aspect of your job will take longer this year. View this as an opportunity to perfect your systems and processes. This is actually a good thing in the long haul, clients who plan more, pay more. So, while it might be inconvenient in the short term, view this as a growth opportunity for your business.
Jane Callewart, owner of Dragonfly Tile said, “We have a client that was hoping to get started on an outdoor covered area this spring. I called them and suggested that they move forward with tile selections by utilizing a local supplier's "virtual design services" Hopefully this will help to engage them in the planning process now rather than just putting it off entirely. If they invest in the process, they are more likely to follow through when able.”
Even the smallest of companies can offer the same slick services and options that the largest do. Take Dirk of Hawthorne Tile for example. He realized an opportunity in offering financing, “We have found a good amount of people, especially restaurant owners, who desire to have work done right now, but cannot afford it due to their business being shut down. So, we have started offering several financing options.”
This is where a relationship with your local banker will come in handy. You don’t have to float their balance, and you can benefit from partnering with a lender to offer financing.
Take advantage of whatever resources you can find and set up your business legitimately.
We need to be educating ourselves and staying up to date on whatever resources are being offered to us. Isaac Ostrum of O.Tile has found that “The Cares ACT and specifically PPP (paycheck protection program) basically ensures that we will be able to keep our employees employed and our rent/utilities paid no matter what. Also, our company entity structure is an LLC – of which my wife and I are employees. So, we will be getting our salaries, plus whatever direct payments they give us.”
Even if you are operating as a sole proprietor, you should be paying yourself a set salary, keeping your personal and business accounts separate. This has proven very helpful right now to those who practice it and detrimental to those who don't.
The importance of business relationships has never been clearer.
If you have a history with your banker, lawyer, accountant, manufacturer reps etc., they will be ready to take your call and happily help you since they already know, like and trust you.
“Our accountant and financial planner have been great resource. They were sending me information as it was unfolding and calling to see if I needed any help. Another resource has been our payroll provider who has communicated regularly with information and tips to make it easier to access the reports and documents we may need” said Jane Callewart.
There is still work out there to be had, and it’s the ideal client that’s looking for a contractor during this pandemic. People who are calling to schedule a job will be wanting to deal with the most professional contractor they can find.
Come up with a COVID-19 safety plan and make sure potential clients know about it. Banks and credit card companies offer home improvement loans, so make sure clients know about these options when needed.
Make sure you are not wasting your time, now more than ever, it’s important to know who your ideal clients are. And, if you have down time, use it to pump up your marketing, which if used correctly, will position you as an expert and help you be found.
Also, take advantage of online education such as the NTCA's Online University and be prepared to come back stronger and capitalize on opportunities when things rebound!
The contents of this blog are for informational purposes and represent the opinion of the guest author. If you have a question about TEC products, please contact us.
About the author:
Luke Miller founded Tile Money and launched the podcast in September 2018. With nearly 20 years of experience Luke observed way too many skilled people working late into their nights, weekends and holidays because they failed to operate a profitable business. Luke felt this method of operation was detrimental to the Tile & Stone installation industry and there had to be a better way. Driven with a desire to help his tile friends, he has developed a fundamental, educational body of work and presented it publicly in an entertaining way to support his colleagues in the Tile & Stone Contractor Industry.