July 6, 2021
Dave WrightAs I write this, we are most of the way through the annual “Hundred days of Hell.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it refers to the first 100 days of the season. For me, it has been a very crazy time. Our company made a shift late last year, in our design-build division — from 80 per cent commercial bid build to 80 per cent residential design-build. This shift was mostly intentional, but we also saw a slowing in the commercial market due to Covid-19. As a result, our designers and sales people have been extremely busy, designing and selling backyard retreats for our clients. We set sales goals back in January that the team is now blowing out of the water. I personally hit my target for the year in mid-May. That all sounds great, right? But, what do you do when you don’t have the labourers to plant that tree, the material to build that patio, or if the mowers you ordered in December still haven’t arrived? You roll with it…

Hopefully, you have treated your vendors well and built up some favours over time. One of our equipment vendors approached us in April, just after we’d swapped out a machine that was on lease. He reminded us we had a machine coming due in October and was concerned he wouldn’t have any machines then. So, we took another machine early at a slightly higher lease rate. The rate might be 50 bucks more, but we have a machine and that certainty is peace of mind. Driving past the dealer the other day, I noticed he had no machines in stock.

As the material shortage loomed, we started stripping and gravelling our back lot at the shop, to make room for material storage. Our plan was to order and take delivery of materials as soon as we sold a job. We started with that, but soon found we needed to take delivery of materials on spec. We had to adapt our sales process to sell a smaller range of inventoried materials, instead of the large selection that used to be available from our local supplier.

Rolling with it… Hopefully your customers are rolling with it too. We have been trying to manage expectations through the ever-changing process. We start the conversation with clients by talking about material shortages. Everyone has heard about lumber issues and almost everyone I have talked to has a story about a purchase that had an extended delivery delay due to some kind of supply chain issue. With clients who want a specific material, we discuss holding off on the project until materials are available. My pool builder mentioned he might have to shut down for a couple of weeks because he was running out of plumbing parts. What can you do? Roll with it…

Regular communication is key to managing expectations. We are certainly not perfect at it, but our team is working harder than ever to make it all work.

The labour element is a whole other story. I have mentioned in previous columns where we need to be, but getting there will be a long road. This year there were a lot more students available than last year at this time, and we have taken advantage of the situation by hiring a great team. When they go back to school in fall, that will be a challenge, so we are planning now.

With constant adaptation it is easy to lose sight of your goals. Remember to look up and see where you are headed. It is important. I challenge you to hit the goals you set at the beginning of the year, no matter the circuitous route this “Hundred days of Hell” has taken you… Oh, and don’t forget to take a break. Your mental health is just as important as hitting those goals.
Dave Wright
LO President