Despite the pandemic, contractors are keeping their doors open for business
By Max Lancaster
The COVID-19 pandemic has halted the national economy. Every industry has been hurt by the novel coronavirus and residential contractors are no exception as states implement social distancing measures to stop the spread. However, some contractors in Arizona are keeping the doors open with a pragmatic approach to finding clients and a small but consistent demand for their services.
Home developer Wayne Funk, owner of Bellago Homes in Mesa, Ariz., said his company saw minimal losses since Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued a shelter-at-home order on March 30. Funk was initially concerned that the coronavirus would make it hard to find contractors to work on Bellago’s developments, but that has not happened.
“Obviously this is affecting some buyers, but we have not lost too many sales,” Funk said. “Contractors are still showing up for work and if people are sick they stay home.”
Mesa roofing contractor and owner of Overson Roofing, Pat Overson has maintained a small but steady stream of business since the start of the pandemic which allowed the company to avoid layoffs.
Overson is proud of keeping his people employed and credits the company’s reliance on their ability to set up social distancing measures that allow their salespeople to continue to pursue leads.
“We call them virtual estimates,” Overson said.
The sales people are able to work in separate spaces in the office with their own phone so they can continue to take sales calls. Once a lead is obtained contractors are able to go to the potential client’s house and inspect the roof without having to interact with the client in person. Overson can then give the client an estimate virtually or over the phone
“Our business has always been very personable so it is harder to make a sales pitch when you can’t interact with someone in person, but we have adjusted well and found enough business to keep everyone’s jobs.”
Scottsdale Arizona Kitchen Remodeler, Kitchens by Good Guys has also made adjustments to adapt to the new realities of COVID-19 by implementing a virtual consultation strategy.
“Our customer interactive programs have allowed clients to interactive with our products virtually and our cloud systems have allowed our employees to stay connected,” said Design Associate Simone Bumpus. “Our designers are able to work from home, have remote meetings with clients, continue to work with them and try and close new clients.”
Good Guys decreased their marketing budget because they understand many prospective clients do not have a kitchen remodel at top of mind right now.
“We are scaling back our outreach a bit until everyone is back in a more controlled situation,” Bumpus said. “We know many prospective clients have more pressing concerns right now and we have reached out to our leads to let them know we are here for them when things get back to normal.”
All three contractors stated that they were grateful the state labeled them as an “essential” business, allowing them to continue their operations.
Overson said he was impressed his staff was able to implement work from home measures and may implement some aspects of it post pandemic.
“Working from home has had a learning curve but we know we can do it now so maybe we will use it in the future.”
Bumpus was also able to find a silver lining as people continue to work from home.
“Many Americans are working from home now so they are putting their kitchens to the test. We are hoping that will start a new wave of kitchen updates.”
Contractors allowing some employees to work from home has been a boon for many businesses, but at the end of the day, residential contractors can’t remodel a kitchen or fix a roof from home. This means it is important for contractors to keep their on-site employees safe.
Overson Roofing has implemented safety measures to decrease the risk of contracting COVID-19. Contractors wear a mask on the job and require supervisors and staff to follow the six-foot social distancing guidelines.
“We are having our contractors section out the roof more so we can keep everyone farther apart,” Overson said. “Instead of having three guys on one side of the roof we are having them each do their own area of the roof.”
Overson said it can make things move a little slower, but it’s better than having people out sick.
Funk said everyone is keeping a six-foot distance and he is in constant communication with contractors to discuss what safety measures each contractor needs.
“One of the plumbing contractors we work with requested that they be the only contractors allowed on site when they were on the job,” Funk said.
Max Lancaster is a freelance writer in Phoenix, Ariz. He has covered business, government, and criminal justice in the state since he graduated from the University of Arizona in 2015.