Our industry is in a good place economically right now. Yes, we have product supply issues, but by planning ahead and tying up some working capital, you should be able to weather the storm and keep key products in stock and ready to go. On the other hand, we have never had the pipeline of work lined up that is currently on the calendar, more calls keep coming in, and we keep producing more proposals and winning more work. Definitely a good place be.
But then a wrench gets thrown into the works. We’ve all been there. You have your schedule laid out for the next two or three months and everything is flowing great. Product is being ordered well ahead of time and is showing up in your warehouse or office, getting staged for the projects coming up. Then you reach out to confirm the date with the client and/or contractor for next week’s installation, only to be told, “We got delayed and the floors are being done next week, can you come the following week?” Now you are furiously working the phones to move Client B from two or three weeks out to next week so you can push Client A back a week. And it ends up not being just two clients that you have to move because everyone’s construction schedule is on different timelines, but you have to switch Client C from three weeks out — who is ready for you but you just didn’t have time on the original calendar — to next week, but then Client B’s pre-wire gets pushed back… I often feel like I should be in the circus with how many balls I can juggle at once.
Also by Todd and Mark: Revisiting Managing Inventory and Vendor Partnerships in Times of Uncertainty
It is a very precarious arrangement, because invariably there another delay either with someone you moved or with someone else down the line that causes you to go through the machinations all over again. In the before times, when we were often booked only two-three weeks out, this was not much of an issue. Now that our calendar is full for two-three months, it is creating much more of an upheaval, and there is no magic bullet solution. We both work in a market where weekend and night work is not possible — the buildings in NYC will not allow off-hours work to be done. In fact, we often have to exit a building by 4:00 PM and stop all noisy work by 3:30 PM.
We keep our calendar electronically, so it is easy to see what is coming up and to move things. We also often book an extra day or two into many larger projects to account for unforeseen on-site issues, and very often those days will save us when we have to move things around. Other than that, the best solution we have is great relationships. We are fortunate to work with many of the same designers, architects, and contractors over and over, so they know we are reliable and will do everything we can to make it work, and if we cannot accommodate the schedule, they will work with us.
Recently we’ve been fortunate enough that projects that we had scheduled within the same month were with the same teams, so we could work with them to move one or two of the jobs around, since they were the contractor for both Client X and Client Y and could accommodate us to make the timing work out. If we do not have those relationships, it is being understanding and empathetic with the client while explaining the situation.
Like many of you, we have clauses in our contract that allows us to charge the client for delays that are outside of our control and if we are not notified at least three business days in advance. Because we are so proactive and reach out a week ahead of time, we are usually outside of the three days and, to be honest, we have never invoked the penalty. We just do not want to poison the relationship with the other trades on the job who very often are the ones who brought us to the client in the first place, or could be the one who brings us into a future job once they see how well we work together and the great work we do for the customer.
Also by Todd and Mark: A Tale of Two Touch Panel Strategies
We often try to come up with interim solutions to get the around the delay. For example, we can at least get a client the bare basics, like get the network up and one or two TVs mounted and running. Or we can come in and prewire the rooms farthest from the rack, so the contractor can start to close-up most of the home and just hold off on a few rooms closer in that we will come back and do as soon as we can. No, it is not the most efficient way to operate, but by being flexible and working closely with the client and our trade partners, we get a lot more referral work.