In three weeks, 101 recorded U.S. cases of COVID-19 ballooned to more than 33,000. As of April 3, the country has more than 246,000 confirmed cases—more than any other single country. Streets are empty, businesses are closed. People can’t go to work, or congregate too closely. One in five Americans have been ordered to stay home, according to reporting from The New York Times. Goldman Sachs projects the country’s GDP will drop 24% next quarter as a result. That would be the worst GDP drop in U.S. history, by a lot.
The outbreak’s impact on everyday normalcy in the U.S. is unprecedented, as is it’s impact on the remodeling industry. There’s no guide for how to navigate a remodeling business through a global pandemic the scale that we’re experiencing. With that in mind, we’ve reached out to a number of remodelers and industry organizations to get a better understanding of how COVID-19 has impacted their markets and how they’re responding as a result.
We will be publishing their responses in a series of posts that will extend the length of the crisis, however long that proves to be.
Responses come from Tundraland President Brian Gottlieb.
How can businesses protect themselves if they weren’t already protected?
You can ask your bank for a line of credit or a larger line; but honestly, if you haven’t already done so, it may be tough to get right now. Still, of course, ask. You should also contact the organizations you work and partner with, because they may be willing to work with you. American Express, for instance, will roll over your balance for 30 days for free if you ask. Also, the Small Business Association is working on providing loans for businesses impacted by the virus.
To be clear, the first rule of business is to stay in business. I’m a big believer in “stress testing” the financials of a business. This means running various revenue scenarios for your business and seeing where you could be out of alignment. How you proceed, what you have to cut or change—maybe you need to alter compensation to reflect current conditions and revenue—that will depend on your strategy: if you stay open, or if you need to hibernate. If you’re staying open, evaluate your fixed costs and understand your expenses so you know how to better operate—consider temporary compensation structures, which could include putting more people on a variable compensation structure that reflects your monthly revenue.
Layoffs and furloughs are always tough decisions. If you find yourself in a position where a furlough is necessary, set up weekly team calls with your furloughed people, giving them updates on the business so they don’t feel abandoned. Especially if the goal is to bring them back one day.
What is your view on the importance of remodeling during the quarantine?
Remodeling is considered essential in Wisconsin, and what we’re doing is essential. If you in the fall in the bathroom when hospitals are congested with sick people, when your care could be delayed, that can be a death sentence. Our team is working to keep the community safe. They still choose to show up to jobsites every single day. And to put their families who are worried about the virus at ease, we have sent them letters assuring them we are adhering to CDC guidelines and to reiterate the important role they’re loved ones are playing in keeping people safe during these times.
Tundraland is an active part of the communities it operates in, hosting several events a year. How are you remaining active while public gatherings are being postponed?
Tundraland has two events we’re currently running online, each helping to market the business while boosting the local economy. Singing in the Shower is a contest we do every year (usually in public during the Mile of Music) in which people win prizes for singing in a shower (usually setup at our booth during the event). Our current contest is happening online. This year, locals are sending in videos of themselves singing to win gift cards to local businesses that are still able to operate, like restaurants doing take out.
Tub of Tunes is another event currently ongoing in which we broadcast local artists playing music every Tuesday. These are artists that would usually be playing gigs at the local restaurants and bars currently unable to host guests. We facilitate a digital tip jar so viewers can show them their appreciation for the performances.
Some final thoughts from Brian:
When this all passes, leaders will look back on these days and they will have learned something about themselves, their leadership style, their team, and their culture. Be the leader that’s inside of you. Be a solid communicator, a resource for others, and a person that someone can trust. On a personal note: I’ve got the best team in the world, and I’m proud of them on a daily basis. Finally, if there’s a company out there that’s struggling, or just wants to talk, please know I’m always a phone call away.
Brian Gottlieb is the president of Tundraland.