Our world — and our industry — has changed drastically over the last month. COVID-19 fills the news every day with misery and death, while governments around the world are restricting the movements of their citizens. Here in the United States, the freedoms we hail as the very foundation of our nation are being curtailed. Restaurants, stores and businesses of all kinds are closing, with their owners wondering if bankruptcy is their only option. Families and friends are separated, and in some places, even food and essentials are in short supply. Maybe worst of all, no one can even tell us when this will all end.
It can be no wonder that many of us feel hopeless. But, I say to you, all is not lost. When facing a challenge like our country and the entire world faces today, there lies an opportunity to rise above the petty differences that plague our nation in more unworried times. Now is the time for action — not fear.
But what can we do? Where do we start? For each of us, the answer may be different. All answers start with taking action. Action creates momentum; momentum creates opportunities; and opportunities are what we all need right now.
- If your business has been forced to close its doors, is struggling to stay open, or is facing more and more canceled orders and installations, there are some specific steps you need to take.If you have had to lay off associates (or if you have been laid off), you need to fill out state unemployment forms. The state unemployment benefits are being supplemented by the federal government during the COVID-19 crisis. The sooner you act, the quicker relief will be provided.
- If your business is closed or struggling, go immediately to www.SBA.gov. The Small Business Administration has programs to provide low or no-interest loans to companies in need. File your claim to get in the queue as quickly as possible, as the system is already backlogged and overloaded with companies trying to get help.
- If you are unable to meet your financial commitments with your suppliers, it’s important to let them know. Don’t just stop making payments. Open a dialog with them, and let them know your situation. If you can make partial or monthly payments, you will find that many suppliers are willing to work with you and will completely understand the situation. After all, they are struggling with this, too. Definitely don’t avoid them and find out months from now that your credit has been ruined, when it does not have to be on account of this.
- Use this time to contact your customers. Let them know you are still here and will be when this is all over. Thank them for their business and wish them and their families well. This is the time for superior customer service, letting people know you are a company that cares.
- Keep in touch with isolated or laid-off workers. They are probably scared, and a call from you may put their mind at ease. Help these people in any way you can now, knowing that they will help you in every way possible after this crisis is over.
- Keep regular hours. A sense of normalcy is important in times like these. It keeps us on track and moving forward.
- Give yourself a break! Stress can sap your brain of the creativity that it needs now more than ever. Take some time for yourself. Connect by phone with distant family and friends, start a new hobby or work on those projects you have been putting off around the house. Keep that stress level under control, and when it’s time for work, you will be rested and ready to take the actions you need to succeed.
Perhaps most importantly, ask for help when you need it! Our industry is filled with some of the most clever and creative people in the world. Reach out to fellow contractors, retailers, distributors and manufacturers and find out what is (and is not) working for them. Our industry is strongest when we all work together. There is no better time than now to help anyone you can and to ask for help from those who are able to provide it.
In times of uncertainty, we must plan for the future. We must not give in to the doom and gloom predictions of so many in our nation. We are stronger than we realize, and by summoning our courage and facing our fears, we will survive this crisis. We are the American people, and we do not give up. We do not quit, and we do not sit idle when action is needed.