We’re in interesting times…. to say the least!
Disclaimer: I don’t play a CDC official, doctor, lawyer, or accountant on TV, nor do I play one in this Scorpion blog post. So, before you act on anything you read and/or listen to from me, please consult with your own trusted advisors.
In response to challenges home services businesses are facing as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, what I want to share here—and have shared in a number of podcasts, including The Sharpest Tool—is…
A) What I'm telling my consulting clients right now, and
B) What I might do if I were in your shoes.
Start with a strong line of communication
The most important thing you can do as an owner is keep the lines of communication open both between you and your staff, and between you and your customers.
You have probably received a thousand or more email blasts from pretty much any company you've ever done business with. (I know I have.) What the best of them do, in my opinion, is they stress that we’re in this together.
The one thing I would NOT be doing is cowering beneath my desk. You have one chance to be proactive and lead from the front. Your staff and your customers need to hear from you. You'd be well served to craft a message from your heart to each of these audiences and speak to what you know to be true as of the date of your correspondence, in any way you typically communicate with these groups.
(Note: I strongly advise that you run that correspondence by your trusted advisor (i.e., your attorney) before you put it out there.)
If you’re like so many of my clients, you likely have always had PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) as part of your manuals and documented training. If that’s the case, consider sharing those protection measures that are already in place with your team and your customers—and let them know what extra steps you might be taking right now to go above and beyond those established measures. As a word of caution, be certain to only share what you’re actually doing to protect the health of your employees and customers—don’t make any untrue claims.
Most importantly, think long-term. In thinking about your relationships with both your team and your customers, don’t just focus on what will sustain those relationships in the moment, but consider what is needed to establish strong partnerships for the long term. Once you figure that out, make those elements of partnership a key focus in your messaging. Your employees and customers are likely hurting and afraid, so they can use all the assurance they can get that they’re working with a company they can trust.
In addition to maintaining strong communication, there are also a number of other steps you can take to better serve your customers and strengthen your business during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic…
Another very smart thing to do is to fully understand the state of your business’ finances so you can quickly identify and act on opportunities to help both your employees and your customers.
A word of advice I’ve been sharing is if I were you, I’d avoid getting too mired in a “Pity Party.” I know you, Mr. and Ms. Contractor, are facing your own struggles and are well deserving of empathy, but now’s not the right time to focus on yourself…if there ever is a right time. I wasted so much time when I was a young contractor feeling sorry for myself, and it never changed anything other than it burned up valuable mental capacity.
If you’ve ever seen the great movie Apollo 13, there is a scene in the capsule where the astronauts start blaming one another. That is until Tom Hanks’ character, Jim Lovell, says, “All right, look, we're not doing this, gentlemen. We're not gonna do this. We're not gonna go bouncing off the walls for the next 10 minutes, because we're just gonna end up right back here with the same problems. Try to figure out how to stay alive!”
Be flexible and ready to take on the unexpected
One more thing I’ll leave you with is: as someone who’s been around a long time as both a contractor and a consultant to contractors, I’ve been through a lot. Know that there’s no playbook for what is happening right now.
There was no playbook for what happened in the 1970s for the Oil Embargoes, and the only business I was in at the time was selling fuel oil. There was no playbook for 9/11 for the whole country, or in particular, for the challenges and fears we all faced as New Yorkers.
Neither was there a playbook for the financial meltdown that caused the recession of 2008 and beyond. Also, my brothers had to deal with Hurricane Sandy wiping out much of their service area, along with 20 of their trucks going underwater. They had purposely set up the business so that there were two shops that were made to be redundant 20 miles apart. They never had a drop of water, that is until Hurricane Sandy hit and both shops went underwater, along with the backup generators they had at each location. But my brothers just went to work and led from the front, and with their team, they overcame the enormity of it all.
Here’s the good news…. as contractors, we solve problems. We fix one thing, and then the next, and the next after that, which means we’re especially equipped to deal with the unexpected.
In the meantime, as you figure it all out, remember that this too shall pass, and hopefully sooner rather than later. People will remember what you did both good and bad—so, make it your finest moment!
Al Levi, The 7-Power Contractor