I’m writing about this not because we’ve outgrown COVID, but because most of us are so ready to think through and outgrow COVID. For all the reasons you know, remodeling has been a silver lining industry during this historic pandemic, but what could 2021 look like and what is this post covid about?
In June 2020, my friend and thought leader accurately explained that there were four pandemics, not one (COVID-19/elections/social unrest/economy). It was like a perfect storm that came together to make 2020 an uncertain year. While most of our forecasts and specific predictions were wrong, we could at least visualize these four storms coalescing to create an environment like we had never seen before, albeit generally positive for reshaping.
Although the uncertainty remains, with the advancement of vaccinations, we have been able to start thinking more about the future and not just spending the next week.
What should we focus on?
Consumer demand: Over the past year, we’ve seen a tidal wave of consumer interest in remodeling. It’s the product of many things – working from home, interest rates, home being sanctuary and refuge, no travel, no more savings to spend. I now see a second tidal wave there that could be bigger than 2020. This is driven by all the people who will feel safer after doing post-vaccination work. These are all homes where remodeling has been put on hold due to uncertainty. These are the people who can now feel more confident about their jobs and their ability to pay for the project in the future. This second tidal wave should not only continue the momentum of the COVID tidal wave, but should also push it into 2022 and beyond.
Backlog management… The backlog is a blessing and a curse. I’ve asked the public over the years, “How would you feel if you had a 6-12 month backlog?” and as you might expect, most smile and say it feels good. Then I ask, “How would Andersen Windows feel if he couldn’t produce another window for 6-12 months?” As you can imagine, that would be a business disaster. Customers would switch to other products. They would lose market share. Sellers would leave the business. And the marketing dollars would have been wasted.
One of your biggest priorities now as we head past COVID is to manage and control the backlog. If you can tell a prospect that your backlog for a bathroom project is five weeks versus 16 weeks, then you will differentiate yourself. You will increase your closing rate. Your marketing dollars will be more effective. The tidal wave I mentioned will make backlog and speed as important as price and quality (consumers have been in jail and they want to get their project done now). Those who own the production schedules will not only be ahead, they will be more profitable.
Project changes… If the pandemic had been a three to four month process as many of us predicted in March 2020, then new thoughts, processes and habits would not have been formed. The owners would have simply returned to the priorities that existed before COVID. Because it lasted so long, however, the memories are now scars that may never fade. Our priorities have changed. Our habits might not be able to be reversed. And many now think it’s possible for a pandemic to happen again, so we need to prepare our homes for the next one. I believe we will see more – not less – emphasis on home. It will be a real cultural change, not just a trend – for example, the way Europeans or Asians see their homes, which has been different from that of Americans. Outdoor life will always be important. Healthy indoor environments with air exchange and sanitation will be a priority. Although people will appreciate open spaces, they also know that interior doors are attractive for dividing activities. The number of bathrooms per person will increase due to our concern about germs.
There will be a lot more written about life after COVID, but the important thing is to think about it. Start spending more time listening. Start having more conversations with your team and customers. Humans are resilient creatures, but we must adapt to survive and thrive.