All contractors in Toronto are facing serious business challenges. We’re all caught in the perfect storm of increasing demand, supply chain disruptions, and ongoing labor shortages. While we give a big thumbs up to renewed construction projects, we may also struggle to meet project deadlines and other client expectations.
Let’s talk about what keeps us up at night about our business.
Where Will I Get Roofing Materials?
You know the reasons for the shortages, so there’s no need to rehash them here. Let’s just say that we’ve never been so busy trying to locate such basics as roofing membranes, insulation, coverboards, adhesives, and fasteners.
How many hours have you spent calling multiple suppliers to find required materials, when shipments are expected, when can materials be delivered, how much it will cost, and how can we lock down pricing? It’s difficult for our suppliers to answer these questions with a high degree of certainty, especially if the materials are being delivered to site beyond the next four weeks.
It stands to reason that when suppliers can’t make promises to us, we can’t make promises to our customers about start dates, scheduled milestones, and projected completion dates. This isn’t how roofing contractors like to do business, but it’s today’s reality.
How can you deal with this stressor? First, communicate these issues with customers. Then, build contingencies and protections into your contract. It’s not unusual for roofers to include these provisions:
Availability of Materials
Stipulate that the contractor makes no guarantee that materials will be available as stated in the contract. You can add that reasonable substitutions can be made at the discretion of the parties involved.
Due to pricing increases and fluctuations, roofers can no longer guarantee pricing for long periods. Avoid getting stuck by limiting how long prices in the bid will apply. There may be greater flexibility if the customer has on-site storage and can take an early delivery to lock in material pricing.
Where Can I Find Experienced Crew Members and Administrative Staff?
Even before COVID, shifting demographics and increasing retirements were causing a labor shortage in Ontario. The pandemic has made it harder than ever for roofers and other contractors to find and retain experienced, skilled project managers, crew members, and administrative staff – as well as cover for unexpected COVID-related absences. The lack of immigration has also dried up another critical supply to the labour pool.
In some situations, short-handed contractors may not be able to accept a bid because they lack the necessary workforce. Any roofer that can’t fill in for unexpected absences while on a project, should be open with the customer about potential delays. Explore possible solutions and areas of flexibility.
Image Source: BuildForce Canada
How Can I Meet My Clients’ Expectations?
Roofers took a hit when residential and commercial projects were suspended or delayed during the first and second years of the pandemic. More recently, business is booming:
- Overall Growth: The construction industry in Canada registered an annual growth of 6.1 percent in real terms in 2021, compared to a decline of 2 percent in 2020.
- Non-Residential: Non-resident investment rose significantly (+5 percent) in 2021.
- Residential: In 2021, housing starts increased by 21 percent over 2020 levels.
The best way to keep customers and win new ones is by meeting customer expectations, a difficult feat when faced by material and skilled labor shortages. We can continue to provide expertise, high-quality work, and exceptional customer service. The biggest challenge is keeping on schedule.
Some tried and true ways roofers can work with clients and meet their expectations include:
- Before drafting and signing the contract, identify the client’s expectations and priorities, such as project start date and duration, specifications, budget, and materials.
- Maintain close communication about process, resources, project status and challenges with facility managers, building owners, general contractors, and construction managers involved in the roofing purchase decisions.
- Be ready to provide extra hand-holding, more frequent phone calls, and meetings to address any concerns and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
- Do your best to anticipate challenges and plan for contingencies.
- Monitor progress throughout the project to make sure you’re hitting milestones and meeting expectations.
Take the Steps Needed to Reduce Business Stress
No doubt that these are stressful times. What can you do? First, take care of yourself and your team, as we are all dealing with unprecedented stress. Adapt your business strategies by writing contracts with built-in flexibility, maintaining close communication with all involved parties, building strong relationships with suppliers, creating a welcoming atmosphere and policies that attract employees, and planning for the unexpected.
Working with a trustworthy roofing company like Elite Roofing and Contractors Limited provides the assurance that you’ll be kept informed, a realistic plan is in place, and your project will be high-quality.