In three weeks, 101 recorded U.S. cases of COVID-19 ballooned to more than 33,000. As of April 8, the country has more than 401,000 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.
West Shore Home
Responses come from BJ Werzyn, owner of West Shore Home, which has 16 locations in eight states.
Are your crews still able to work?
We operate in 14 markets and in 12 remodeling is considered essential and we are continuing work. We’ve stopped work in two markets in Pennsylvania.
What have you done to protect your business against COVID-19’s impact?
Cash wise, we were lucky. We have a large credit facility with our bank for acquisitions and were sitting on a lot of cash prior to COVID-19. We also had the foresight to talk with our bank a few weeks ago and have our credit extended by $5 million. Additionally, we had some of our acquisitions lines turned into lines of credit. Now it’s more about thinking ahead. Our CFO has run a bunch of models considering different revenue levels versus payroll, and how long we can maintain the balance with the market getting hit.
Are you considering layoffs?
Our position has been to hold off with layoffs and furloughs as much as possible. In Pennsylvania, we were paying sales reps to essentially sit at home, but now they're back to work, conducting virtual sales meetings. We’re paying base salary plus commissions. We’re lucky that the majority of our Pennsylvania field team have volunteered to go to other states and work. The others are furloughed, staying on our benefits.
How are you communicating with your employees?
\We have to provide narrative or they’ll create their own, so we communicate regularly. We do videos every other day with executive leaders talking to the team, giving kudos to everyone on their job. There are a lot of HR team communications, to keep everyone in the loop. And we’ve been doing live chats on FB to answer questions from people. It’s a big part of our leadership strategy to be open and show appreciation.
We had the foresight to talk with our bank a few weeks ago and have our credit extended by $5 million.
How are you communicating with your markets?
A couple weeks ago we shot new commercials letting our customers know not only that remodeling had been deemed essential in their area, but also why remodeling is essential. We also reassured that we’re following CDC guidelines on all jobsites and that health and safety are our top priority. As soon as the commercials went out, our lead count went up. We also have a bunch of messages out on social media. Health and safety is top priority.
BJ Werzyn is the owner of West Shore Home, headquartered in Mechanicsburg, Pa.