When things change a little, slight adjustments are all that’s necessary. If the outside temperature drops 10 degrees, you may need to slip on a sweater to be comfortable. If it begins to sprinkle, an umbrella will probably help you to stay dry. If you have a slight cold, a good night’s sleep may be enough to get you back on your feet.
But if the temperature drops 30 degrees, or a major thunderstorm blows in behind 30-mph winds, or you come down with a deep sinus infection, something more is needed. If you make only slight adjustments, your actions may make you feel like you are proactively addressing the condition, but it may not, in fact, be enough to create the outcome you desire.
Recently I have had the opportunity to travel around the country speaking to thousands of remodelers. Being on the road and visiting 20 or so different cities, I’ve begun to see some interesting patterns. While some areas of the country may be hit a little harder than others, the overall consensus is that we are all experiencing pretty tough conditions.
The result is that many remodeling contractors have gone from abundance to scarcity in lead flow, and many marketing and sales strategies have become ineffective. While most contractors continue to be very committed to the remodeling industry, the whole business of remodeling has dramatically changed.
And it is my observation that those companies that have responded to these dramatic changes by making dramatic adjustments are the ones that are not merely hanging on through this “perfect storm,“ but in some cases are gaining market share and are even seeing some growth. As with changes in the weather or your health, the level of change to business strategies needs to match and be consistent with the changes in the business environment.
I am not an advocate of abandoning your core purpose, corrupting your key processes, or completely changing your long-term vision. I do, however, believe that you need to change dramatically to survive under current economic conditions. The changes you make should be directed at these two critical areas:
Product. You need to adjust your product to respond to the disposition of today’s prospective remodeling clients.
Homeowners today are nervous. They are unable to get the kind of loans they are accustomed to getting, so they are spending their own money, which makes them even more cautious. And they are turning away from excess and are proud to conserve. The product you deliver needs to accommodate all of these changes in attitude. Price is more important than it used to be, but you can still compete on value by focusing on needed repairs and maintenance, and by emphasizing the value of protecting the home, which is still, for most people, their largest asset.
Lead generation. For the last few years, remodelers have been lead farmers, tending a flock of prospects who were content to wait in line until space for their project became available in the schedule. That doesn’t work anymore. You need to become a lead hunter, tracking down every opportunity. That means investing two hours each day on marketing activities, making sure you know what’s working and what’s not. It also means deputizing your team to hunt for leads, as well as getting everyone to commit to improving overall business fitness and acumen.
While I do believe this storm will pass, I also believe that the changes required to survive this environment need to be much more aggressive than most companies think. My travel revealed that nine out of 10 companies are still doing what they have always done in the same way that they have always done it. They are adjusting their course by just 10 degrees, when a more dramatic 45-degree change of direction is required.
Companies that make the right changes will not only survive, but can truly thrive in this environment.
—Mark Richardson is the author of How Fit Is Your Business? and is co-chairman of Case and The Case Institute of Remodeling; firstname.lastname@example.org; 301.229.9580. Click here to read more of Mark’s REMODELING columns.