In three weeks, 101 recorded U.S. cases of COVID-19 ballooned to more than 33,000. As of April 7, the country has more than 369,000 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.
Kansas City, Kan.
Responses from from Mary Thompson, owner of Architecural Craftsman.
How has COVID-19 impacted your market and your business?
Our phone has continued to ring with new prospective clients, as it usually does this time of year. However, this has all been evolving so rapidly, it's hard to predict what the next week or day will bring. Since the metro Kansas City issued a "Stay-at-Home" order, it has gotten a bit quieter. We have encouraged our contacts to keep moving forward with design decisions so that when the situation improves, we'll be ready to start construction. Most of our area showrooms are either by appointment only or our sales reps are working from home, using virtual showrooms. There has been a lot more communication via emails and platforms like Zoom or Google Meet. The Stay-at-Home order exempts the construction and maintenance of homes as an essential service. We wrestled with our role in this, and have decided to keep working as we follow CDC guidelines of social distancing, cleaning hands, etc. We have three projects in vacant houses and homeowners that are paying two mortgages plus construction costs andwant us to keep working.Still, we evaluate this decision daily.
Has your company had to make any adjustments because of COVID-19?
Yes. We have encouraged our workers to remain on the jobsite as much as possible, limiting their trips to the hardware store and elsewhere throughout the day. We have implemented delivery services when possible. If they need to go into stores, they wear latex gloves and use the self-check lane. When returning to their truck, they remove the gloves inside out, use hand sanitizer, and wipe down anything they've touched with Clorox wipes.
Overhead expenses don't take a holiday, or sick leave.
What is your biggest business concern during these times?
The uncertainty of the duration and intensity of the virus impact. It's difficult to plan for the future when every day is different. Also, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is something new to consider. It extends the protections similar to the Family and Medical Leave Act to employees affected by COVID-19, allowing job protection for up to 12 weeks sick leave: two weeks (40 hours) paid and then up to ten more weeks of unpaid sick leave. It is unclear to me whether our small company could be exempt from this. If not, it will be a financial hardship for us and for our employees. Overhead expenses don't take a holiday, or sick leave. We have applied for the SBA disaster loan program, in case we need it.
How and what are you communicating to your clients during these times?
We use Co-Construct to communicate with our clients, employees, and suppliers and subcontractors. Where we might have had face-to-face interactions in the past, this platform works great for communicating at a distance. We have told our clients that as long as we have the support of our subs and suppliers—and we remain healthy—we'll continue to work on their projects. We have prepared them for potential delays, but we will do our best to keep on schedule.
Mary Thompson is the owner of Architecural Craftsman in Kansas City, Kan.