If one listens to the evening news, it would appear as though the United States’ economy is in dire straits and the world is doomed. Between thousands of cable channels and millions of Internet sites, people are bombarded with the same message over and over again: Duck and cover!
Our clients subscribe to cable television just like we do. They are watching the same channels we are. They are absorbing the consequences of the sub-prime mortgage debacle as well as the feeding frenzy of the media in this presidential election year.
So why are we so surprised when our business phones do not ring?
Many design/build companies have cut staff, reduced hours or have completely gone out of business. Some companies are trying to ride out this economic wave by taking as much work as they can get while others try to cash in on the speculative market. Unfortunately, many did not invest in marketing, develop good business systems or prepare for the inevitable rainy day.
External threats will continue to affect your company, and those who have planned for the future will continue to ride out the storm. Designers and builders that have spent the time working on their business systems may actually thrive in this economy.
Working on business systems seems like the last thing on business owners’ minds these days, especially if they are in a financial crisis. Food and shelter seem more important than creating a business plan or writing standard operational procedures. Believe it or not, this is the perfect time to plan for the next up cycle, which will help you prepare for the next down cycle. I know, it is easier said than done. But what is the alternative? If you do nothing about your current situation, then the same things will happen to you over and over again. One obstacle is fear. You want to change, but are not sure what to change. Worse yet, you do not know what the outcome will be and fear failure and the deflation and dejection that comes with it.
Who knows when this cycle will turn around? For some of us, this will be a long wait. Right now the professional design/builders are enjoying the selling environment because the unprofessional ones are sitting on the sidelines waiting for the economy to recover.
I remember attending a National Association of the Remodeling Industry meeting about six or seven years ago. A speaker was presenting to the group about what we should do in a down economy. I was standing next to a contracting business owner and noticed that he was chuckling under his breath during the speech.
After the presentation I asked him what he found amusing about the speaker’s presentation. He said, “I don’t know why everyone is getting hot and bothered about not having work.” I asked him to explain what he meant by that. He said, “Each and every day the housing stock is under attack from Mother Nature, decaying, and systems are failing everywhere. As long as there are people making babies and needing a roof over their heads, we’ll always have work.” I too thought about this and realized he was absolutely correct.
The design/build industry has overcome many obstacles over the years and will have many more to come. Our presence in the marketplace must continue to serve the residential housing market during good times and economic downturns. We need to maintain high-quality design/build companies. We need to commit to: providing professional design; delivering the highest-quality service; and providing outstanding projects to our clients.
Relax, stay focused and remember that only you can help you get through both the good and bad times.