If you’re reading this while under some variation of a stay-at-home order: you’re not alone. More than half the world’s population is finding itself in similar straits.
Staying at home, though vital to protect the public health, might feel frustrating—especially given the hands-on nature of construction work. Obviously, remote work can’t grant you the bandwidth of physical productivity you might have while on the job in person.
Even if you’re likely not making progress on your project build out, by no means should you consider your time at home wasted. There are a number of ways you can improve your business without stepping foot on a job site: focus on planning for the future, strategizing your return to work, and bettering your bottom line. We’ll walk you through it.
Make a plan.
The world’s return to normalcy might seem far off, but rest assured: eventually, shelter in place orders will end. And you’ll need to have a plan in place to ensure your business is well positioned when they do.
Federal and regional officials have said the process of returning to business as usual will not be as simple as just flipping a switch. We’ll likely see social distancing implemented for some time; communities may ask their residents to continue taking steps like wearing masks in public spaces, or limiting large public gatherings, for the foreseeable future.
It’s important that you take the time to consider how the circumstances might impact the way you do business as businesses are gradually eased open. Can you diversify your sales channels? For contractors, that may look like a willingness to work on projects across zoning, scale and region. Are there ways you can be flexible with the services that you offer to best suit clients as communities transition out of shutdowns?
Make sure you’re taking into account variations of hypothetical timelines for your business. Consider different strategies you might implement based on when you might be making substantive profit again, on your immediate need to conserve cash, or how you think this might impact your profitability in the long-term.
Work on your website.
As we’re beginning to consider how to bolster your business, think of how you might best expand your existing customer base. The days of word-of-mouth only referrals have long passed, and your website can serve as a crucial conduit for new business. It’s a digital first impression: appearances matter.
If you’re building from scratch or scrapping things and starting over, begin with the right website template. You might consider a platform like WordPress, which is free and fairly easy to use; there are also slightly more polished options, like SquareSpace, which charge users a monthly fee.
A good first impression is an excellent start—polished content is the follow through that’ll land you potential clients. If you’re working with a pre-existing website, think critically: what can you improve? It might be as simple as upping the quality of the photos you’re using, or asking yourself if your portfolio is accurately represented by the example projects you’ve chosen to showcase.
Written content is important, too. That’s not to say you’ll need a degree in literature to put forth the perfect website, but taking simple steps (ahem—spellcheck) goes a long way.
You might consider outsourcing your written content, but if you’re keeping things in-house, make sure to keep your writing short, simple, and digestible. Think about how you want to be seen, and the points you want to cover. Who are you? What’s your mission for your company as a business owner? How can you help your clients?
Curate your online presence.
As you’re likely well aware, your online presence goes far beyond your company’s website. As virtual referrals have matched and even outstripped word-of-mouth as a means of customer acquisition for businesses, crowdsourced reviewing platforms like Yelp have risen in popularity.
Though you can’t directly control the reviews you’re given on such platforms, there are a number of steps you can take to help positively influence your profile. Start by claiming your business, uploading photos, and adding accurate business contact information. Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews, and engage with any negative reviews you might get stuck with.
Assess your job costing.
Job costing, if you’re not familiar, is the process of calculating a project’s true cost. Effective, properly calculated job costing takes into consideration not just the cost of materials and the flat cost of labor, but also tangential expenses, like taxes, worker’s compensation insurance, and overtime. (Underestimating the true cost of labor is a mistake commonly made in the construction industry).
Job costing is crucial. Knowing what a project will cost you allows for goal-oriented bids and strategic setting of profit margins. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, you’ve got the time to make some headway. If your previous job costing hasn’t turned up the profit margins you’d hoped for, the extra time on your hands should prove useful for recalculating. Incorporate digital payment into your business.
It’s not easy to bolster your bottom line from home—but adding digital payments to your business, if you haven’t already, is an easy way to do just that.
Digital payment platforms like Square and Cash App have become ubiquitous among small businesses, allowing them flexibility, security and immediacy when it comes to getting paid. Now Punch List, an app-based technology that allows general contractors to connect directly with homeowners, is catering digital payments to general contractors -- and allowing you to accept payments for your remodeling work with no transaction fees.
The app allows contractors to upload project plans and break down remodels phase-by-phase. Contractors can communicate directly with homeowners through the app’s in-house direct messaging function; once work is completed and approved, Punch List creates automatic, digital invoices. Homeowners can then pay those invoices directly in the app.
No delay in payment means smoother, instantaneous cash flow for your business. That’s a serious boon for your efficiency, and means you’ll no longer need to front out-of-pocket cash to cover costs or payroll. Your customers can pay you any time, no matter where you are—whether you’re both on the job site or stuck in your respective homes.
Your kitchen table might not serve as your ideal workspace, especially if you’re itchy to return to job sites. But make no mistake: even as a general contractor, there’s work you can knock out remotely to make your business better than it was before.
This is a time to go above and beyond, whether that means taking a closer look at your bottom line or bringing things full circle by incorporating digital payments with Punch List. You might just return to work to find your business better than ever before.