by Planit Canada President Peter Mate
Good friends of mine own a local restaurant. You can imagine how hard they’ve been hit by COVID-19. Business owners are faced with a choice; Either you adapt or you throw in the towel. The conversations I’ve had with these restaurant owners have been positive and always focused on solutions. They’ve looked at the challenges of being profitable in a traditional sit-down venue vs the more controllable take out option that has been keeping the restaurant going through these times. They’re changing the way their business operates to be more robust, predictable and consistently profitable. For them, there’s good that will come out of this because they don’t quit.
What about our industry? What can we do in woodworking to come out of this stronger and better than before? I have a few ideas.
If you can, you should own the building you are operating out of. Paying yourself rent is a solid investment. And if you can have additional tenants pay you rent for space you’re not using, that’s even better. The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has programs in place that could finance up to 100% of a primarily owner-occupied building. This means that there are very accessible ways for you to buy a building with no money down.
Give yourself your best chance, remotely. We’ve all been immersed with webinars and virtual meetings recently. People are getting used to working like this. How can you change the sales process to include as much remote work as possible? There are software solutions that will allow you to easily present projects remotely. You win by reducing expenses and continuing to be able to sell during COVID-19 times. The designers win by being more efficient; their skills are wasted every time they are in the car driving or waiting for a long rendering to complete. Turning some of the sales process virtual means they can do more in the same amount of time or less.
Streamline your process with online sales. There is industry specific software that allows you to sell online. This is low cost and can be implemented almost immediately. Earning revenue while you sleep should be in everyone’s goals. If a dealer/designer/builder wants to place an order on your website on a Sunday morning while you’re golfing, then empower them to do it! By them entering their order, you streamline the sales process and eliminate duplicate data entry and risks of mistakes.
Ramp up your marketing game. Since traditional marketing has taken a hit in these times, it’s a good idea to turn to social media and online marketing. If you’ve been waiting, now is the time! You can hire someone part-time to handle your social media and online marketing. Empower them with a marketing automation software and they can put your customers and prospects on intelligent campaigns that will be more focused on the recipients and produce better results. You can’t treat everyone the same and send out the same e-blast to them all the time. That ship has sailed.
Invest in production software. In preparation for when the orders come pouring in, get your shop a production software that will move it to a paperless system. This does not have the be a complex ERP. In fact, most times, it shouldn’t be. Keep your employees safe by limiting the papers that get handed down the chain. Empower them to collaborate and communicate electronically instead of physically walking into the office or across the shop floor. There are systems in our market that can be installed and ready to use in one week.
During this pandemic, it’s not business as usual. It’s our choice to get better or not, but the way we worked in the past is no longer a strong option. Take advantage of the available funding and make your business better.