By mid-March (2020), many of my customers were having record leads and sales coming out of the gloomy winter months. Things were looking up. I had just gotten through months of planning and setting the strategies for my customers and was looking forward to a smooth spring season with lots of leads!
A week prior, I had just returned from New York City visiting A.G. Williams Painting, then spending a little time in Central Park. People asked me if I was concerned about the COVID-19 virus, especially after the risky NYC visit. In all honesty, I wasn’t concerned at all.
The thought of a crisis hadn’t entered my mind.
On March 18th, I was attending an all-day business coaching meeting. In the afternoon, my phone and email began to light up with concerned messages from customers. “We need to talk!” “We need to pause services.” “We need to cancel all marketing…”
My stress level went from 0 to 60 in seconds. After reviewing the messages, the fear of uncertainty flooded my mind. I wondered if I would have a business at the end of the month if the messages from clients continued to pour in as they did in just a few hours.
What made matters even worse is that I had just wrapped up services with my business coach, obviously having no way of knowing how much I would need coaching moving forward. I was in the process of interviewing a personal coach when the cancellations started.
That evening, things didn’t get any better.
I remember coming home to my family late that night and trying really hard to act like I was just fine, and like everything would be just fine. That afternoon and evening may have been the most challenging moments of my life up to that point. The kids came running over to me and asked how I was doing. I crumbled to the kitchen floor and started to cry. My kids and my wife surrounded me with hugs and kisses.
The following two weeks were pretty rough. I had to put staff on unemployment and spend many hours and days negotiating with clients and salvaging accounts. There was a moment where I almost just quit. I could have easily walked away from the business and said, “I cannot do this… It’s over!”
This is where I began to really cry out to God and pray. I began to read through Psalms and find comfort in the Lord. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
I knew what I had to do, and I knew God had led me to run A David Creation. I started it in 2009, during one of the worst economies in decades. I made it through that trial, so I began to try and embrace the uncertainty. I began to fight off the stories I was telling myself during those first few weeks of shutdown: self-doubt, fear of the unknown, I can’t do this, I don’t know how to help my customers and save my business at the same time…
These were just stories. They were not true.
I began to take risks and learn to be curious about the uncertain days ahead of me. I also made peace with the very real possibility that my business wouldn’t survive.
I decided that I didn’t need to live in fear, but did need to fight to save not only my business but also help my customers push through their own uncertainties. One cool thing I remember about April is how close I got with my clients. All our calls were similar. We talked about personal things – not just business. We also ended the calls by saying things like, “We’ve got this!” ‘We are in this together!” “We’ll make it through!”
I took a leap of faith and hired a new business coach as well as signed up for a 5-month leadership course called “Leading Change.” It all fell into my lap the week before the shutdown. I had no idea how valuable this course would be in my life. It is all about embracing change, facing the unknown, and learning how to stay curious and lead!
Embracing uncertainty can prove to be a wonderful thing for your home improvement business. Step out of your comfort zone and shut off the flow of negative stories, like:
- “I cannot grow”
- “I never get enough leads”
- “All my staff does is complain”
- “I can’t find good people”
If you take risks, stop the fear, and are willing to be curious about what you can create, you’ll be amazed at the endless possibilities for your business that lies ahead. You have what it takes to move your business forward.
I am so impressed with my customers who weathered the storm this past spring. They didn’t give up, but looked COVID-19 head-on and said, “No. You will not take down my business.”
As I write this post in July of 2020, almost every single client of mine is back to having record lead and sales counts again. The number one problem they are having at the moment is finding more employees. Guess what? We are hitting that challenge head-on as well. We will make it through this crisis. We will embrace change and make things better.
I am committed to making my own business stronger and better. I am working through my systems and making changes and will be providing new services in the coming months such as marketing plans and 1-day planning sessions. I’m back to hiring new staff members (2021: which I have done and continue to do) and pressing on to help contractors continue to excel and grow their businesses.
One final thing – one of the best decisions I made during COVID was starting a weekly prayer meeting for contractors. We will not stop. Each Friday at lunchtime, customers get together and pray for our nation, our businesses, and the home improvement industry. If I did nothing else right during this shutdown, the prayer meeting was the best decision yet. (Sept 2021: It is still going)