Planning for the Worst ...and the Best!

Published: 5/5, 2020

First things first—whoever you are, wherever you are, we hope you and your loved ones are keeping the coronavirus at bay. It’s the rare construction business that hasn’t been affected in some fashion over the past few months by canceled projects or stay-at-home orders, but those effects can be mitigated and backlogs rebuilt. Human lives are a little different.

By the time you read this, more states will be easing gradually restrictions and allowing more types of construction work to resume, which is good news for everyone. True, some extra measures will be necessary to safeguard you and your employees. But contractors that already boast good health and safety practices should encounter few problems integrating them into their daily routines. The adage, “an ounce of prevention outweighs a pound of cure,” is truer now than ever.

But then what? Will the traditional summertime uptick in project activity help the construction economy regain its legs, perhaps with the aid of stepped-up government spending? Or are we in for a long string of wobbly months where work is scarce, and business owners have to make some difficult decisions in order to keep their enterprises going?

The truth is, no one knows. But then, no one was quite sure how the so-called Great Recession that began in 2008 would unfold. Or the aftermath of the bust. Or…well, you get the idea.

To be sure, the outlook for a coronavirus-driven downturn is shrouded by unknowns that may not be resolved for some time. But every recession has had its own defining characteristics, and the construction economy has found ways to overcome them. There’s no reason to think this one will be any different.

While there’s no one sure-fire strategy to navigating the challenges to come, there are many good practices contractors can utilize or adopt to optimize their position for whatever does happen. They begin with understanding why you’re in business to begin with and what you bring to the table in terms of skills, resources, and that “little something extra” that sets your business apart from competitors. It may make sense to explore other services or markets for new work, but due diligence will be essential to fully gauge whether such a move is truly practical, let alone profitable. 

At the same time, nimbleness as a business will be a must, as there’s a strong likelihood of recovery being anything but a smooth ride upward. When change occurs, you want to be ready to act quickly and rationally.

Implementing these and other recovery measures will require good, sound information. And luckily there’s a lot out there—in some cases, too much. To keep from being overwhelmed, some contractors have assigned topic tracking duties to (e.g., safety requirements, regulatory issues, market research) to others in their firms. Regularly sharing insights keeps everyone up to date, and will help minimize the risks of rumors.

Let’s hope that when the next issue of PDa reaches your mailbox, we’ll have a little more clarity about the economic road ahead, and perhaps some good progress on eliminating the coronavirus threat altogether. As we’ve already seen during the first months of 2020, anything can happen. Many things are beyond our individual control, but there are far more things we can influence positively than we realize. 

Let’s all do what we have to do, and do it sensibly and safely.


Jim Parsons, Senior Editor

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