We are happy to announce that David Batturs and Dave Wenrich have joined the Homestead Outdoor Products family. As inside sales representatives, a few of their responsibilities include writing material quotes and orders, researching and sharing information with employees and customers, and assisting our customers with their orders.
David has enjoyed a career in construction equipment sales, including 20 years as a manager. He brings extensive experience in working to serve customers’ needs and coordinating efforts with fellow employees.
Although a lifelong Lancaster County resident, David enjoys traveling. In fact, he has literally been around the world—a trip to India in 1997 took him clear across the globe!
Dave has worked in the construction industry for over 40 years as a carpenter. He has firsthand experience installing many of the products that Homestead Outdoor Products sells.
Middletown is his home, and he has lived in the Lancaster/Dauphin County area for 55 years. Dave and his wife, Cara, have been married for 27 years and have four children (David, 22; Quinn, 20; Clark, 13; and Ruthie, 11). On the family’s 5-acre mini-farm, the Wenrichs raise chickens, ducks, geese, and goats. They also enjoy bowling and spending time with their four dogs.
Q1. What types of plastic building supplies are going up in price?
Resin, which is the basis for all vinyl railing and fencing products, has risen at a never-before-seen rate. The cost of aluminum, too, has gone up rapidly. Both have driven up the costs of aluminum railing and fencing products—and even on our vinyl railing, which uses aluminum inserts for added strength.
Q2. What factors are causing it?
With more people staying at home and wanting to update or enhance their interior and exterior living spaces, the demand for home building materials has outpaced the supply.
The pandemic continues to disrupt the resin supply chain. That, along with increased demand, particularly in the Gulf States where extreme weather caused a lot of property damage, has made it difficult for producers to keep up. Aluminum is also more difficult to get. International suppliers have a limited supply and shipping overseas comes with challenges. This has overstressed the aluminum supply here in the U.S., driving prices higher. Increased labor and transportation costs are also affecting prices.
Q3. Is there anything contractors can do to help lessen the financial impact?
Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Add an extra percentage into quotes to help cover unknowns and unpredictability.
- Keep stock on the shelf, which will help offset potential future price increases.
- Set a limit for how long you’ll honor homeowner quotes—perhaps 7 to 10 days, max.
- Consider putting a materials surcharge rider clause in contracts or bids on jobs that are several weeks or more away. This will allow customers to know up front that if your materials costs rise, so will your price to them.
- Identify opportunities to upsell from lumber to vinyl or aluminum products, which have a higher profit margin. (The cost of lumber has increased, too, lessening the cost gap between wood and more durable, better-quality materials.)
Be honest with customers about the changes and unpredictability in pricing and product availability to avoid giving them any unwelcome surprises.
Q4. What can we expect going forward?
The demand for building materials is predicted to remain strong through 2021 and into 2022. As supply lags behind demand, also expect the labor market to continue to impact pricing. With more open job positions than there are applicants, wages will be driven higher and have a ripple effect.
IN THIS ISSUE, WE’LL TALK ABOUT “CLARIFY.”
Clarify is a two-step process centered on sorting through all of the information and to-dos that come your way. It means reviewing what you have in front of you to make sure you understand it and determining the actionable steps you need to take. For example:
- Say you get a piece of mail from your tax accountant. Before you can take the next steps, you need to figure out what the paper is about.
- Then, you must ask yourself, “Do I need to do something with it now?”
If “no,” decide if the information should be trashed, will require action someday, or needs to be kept around for future reference.
If you must act soon, ask yourself, “What is the next action?” If it’s something that will take less than two minutes, get it done now. For example, if there’s a tool on your desk, you can quickly unclutter your workspace by putting it in a work truck. That will also ensure your crew has it on hand when they’re out on their next job.
If an action will take more than two minutes, decide who should handle it. Delegate it if there is someone else who has the skills and time to take care of it successfully. For example, sending financial information to the accountant might best be tackled by your bookkeeper. Or a project manager might be the one to respond to an email from an inspector about a framing detail. If you’re the best person to handle an action, make a note to remind yourself of it or schedule a time on your calendar to do it.
Pro tip: Allen recommends dealing with one item at a time so that you can focus better. Multitasking leads to distraction and mistakes!
Stay tuned for our next issue when we’ll discuss organizing your to-dos.
Did you know that we carry structural vinyl and aluminum porch posts in many styles from trusted brands, including Key-Link and Superior Plastic Products?
No matter your customers’ design preferences, we have posts in many varieties and colors to enhance curb appeal while providing stability.
Call us for more information!
*Porch posts are not designed for freestanding applications, such as pavilions. You can find information about load tolerances in our article “Structural Porch Posts: Three Common Questions (and Their Answers).”
1. Talk and, more importantly, listen to customers before starting a project.
Communication takes time, but it’s necessary. Not only does it matter for learning what customers want from a design and functional standpoint, it also allows you to assess:
- Their overall demeanor (relaxed and easy-going or demanding and stressed)
- How they would like you to communicate with them (e.g., phone call, text, or email)
- How involved they want to be in the process (for instance, how often they want status updates)
2. Remember that it’s more than just “a job” to your customers.
Resist viewing a customer’s project as “just another job.” It may be one of many on your schedule, but to the homeowner, it’s a big deal. Their deck, patio, or fence is something that will affect their lifestyle.
When discussing a project, repeat the details back to the customer to make sure you’re on the same page about what they’re envisioning, when the work will begin, how long it will take to finish, and how much it will cost.
If there will be a delay in starting or finishing work for a customer, let them know as soon as possible. The customer may have taken time off work or made other sacrifices to be available based on when you said you would arrive. Communicating news that customers won’t be happy to hear is no fun, but it’s always better to be candid and straightforward. Proactive communication helps show customers that you care—and that can mean the difference between satisfaction and frustration.
Check out our new video that shares insight and pros and cons about three deck board-fastening methods:
- Fasteners through the surface of the board
- Fasteners through the side of the board
- Clips inserted into grooves in the board
Visit www.homesteadoutdoorproducts.com/videos to see this video and also to tune in to our other helpful videos—and watch for more!
IN THIS ISSUE, WE’LL ZERO IN ON THE FIRST STEP: CAPTURE.
This step involves capturing your tasks and “to-dos” in some way so that you can get them out of your head and come back to them later. Capturing is critical because it frees your mind to concentrate on what you’re doing at the moment while keeping other priorities on your radar.
To successfully capture things that need your attention, you must create a system that prevents items from falling through the cracks. A system that allows you to centralize information will help you stay organized, and it will help avoid an office or truck cap littered with sticky notes and scratch pads!
A capture system might consist of physical and digital tools. A few examples include:
- A physical in-box or tray
- Digital and mobile apps (e.g., Trello, Google Drive, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents)
- Email, text, and voice recordings
Try to keep your items in as few places as possible. The more “buckets” you have, the more difficult it will be to keep track of them. Also, Allen suggests emptying your buckets regularly so that you act on the tasks you captured in your system.
A good capturing system might mean the difference between:
- Winning and losing a job
- Having supplies on time for a project or needing to reschedule
- Staying on time and budget or going over
- Keeping your promise to a customer or failing to meet their expectations
- Getting referrals from satisfied customers or learning that you’re getting bad-mouthed on social media
It may take some practice to perfect it, but it will be well worth the effort.
Tune in to our next issue to learn about Step 2: Clarify.
2020 was unlike any other year—but the same. Despite the unforeseen shutdowns, a global pandemic, and uncertainty just around every corner, which kept us all guessing, one thing that hasn’t changed is our gratitude for the relationships we share with our customers and suppliers. And this is something we are committed to.
So, this year’s Open House will go on as usual, but with a pivot. Instead of a morning at our facility, we decided to include our Open House Workshop topics in the Homestead Post newsletter as an expanded issue. We hope you find value in the information. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us.
P.S.: We’re looking forward to hosting a customer appreciation breakfast mid-year, after restrictions have eased up. Stay tuned for updates!
Open House Articles
- 2021. And beyond.
By: Stuart Jeffcoat, CEO, Burgard
- Should I join a trade association?
By: Todd Burgard, President, Burgard
- Managing Customer Expectations
By: Dan McHugh, Wolf Home Products
- How to Take Photos of Your Job
By: Melanie Hess—content writer and marketing project manager at Superior Plastic Products and Key-Link Fencing & Railing
By: Stuart Jeffcoat—CEO, Burgard
By now, we’ve all heard quite a bit about COVID-19 and have seen in real-time the economic consequences. Sadly, many small businesses have been shuttered, and, regardless of what Wall Street looks like, Main Street has suffered the most.
Despite the immediate pain for some businesses caused by intermittent supply chain shortages, many in our industry had a banner year. But this comes as no surprise. Historically, the building industry tends to lag behind overall economic trends by 12–18 months. The fact remains that we’ve not yet felt the full impact
of the global 2020 shutdowns and the ensuing economic fallout.
That means COVID-related economic consequences are about to cause larger-scale disruptions for many builders, contractors, and folks within our industry in 2021 and beyond. While recovery is inevitable at some point, wise builders are currently bracing themselves for a challenging year (or years).
So, how do you come out of this ahead? What concrete steps can you take to put your business in the best position going into this period of the unknown?
1. Invest in marketing.
Typically, during a period of economic uncertainty, marketing is the first thing businesses cut. HOWEVER, this is actually the best time to stand out. While your competition is cutting back, get your name out there! Consider whether advertising or other forms of outreach make sense.
2. Get serious about sales behaviors.
During a time of uncertainty, customers and prospects are often looking for help—even if they appear more budget-conscious. Align your sales plan with this need by focusing your calls and conversations on problem-solving rather than pushing new products!
3. Optimize your systems.
It’s often said, “Change is the only constant.” Take this time to look not just at what your business does, but how it’s done. Are employees in the right roles? Is leadership supporting them in the most effective ways? Are jobs running smoothly? If you’ve been doing things “business as usual” for a while, now may be the time to find a new “usual.”
4. Cultivate an abundance mentality.
Maintaining a positive attitude can be challenging when the building market is uncertain. Focus on believing and knowing there is plenty of work out there for all of us, even if it requires some changes. Keeping a positive mindset while others focus on negativity fosters hope, promotes good health, and offers clarity for productive thinking.
For better or for worse, the economy isn’t something we can directly control. It’s bigger than any of us, even though it affects all of us. Focusing on what we can control and letting go of what we can’t is a perspective we all need to persevere. And it’s a great way to get ahead. Not just now, but always.