At the start of 2020, the industry outlook in construction was positive. Many contractors were optimistic about what the year had in store for construction businesses in terms of profit, expansion of operations, and even payment issues. That was until the COVID-19 pandemic put a wrench in everyone’s business plans.
There’s no question about how huge the impact of the novel coronavirus crisis is on business operations. With the federal and state governments implementing strict measures to slow down the spread of COVID-19, construction businesses are experiencing significant delays and disruptions in their operations. Because of the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, many construction projects are forced to postpone operations or, worse, cancel them altogether.
Nevertheless, there are lessons in the COVID-19 pandemic that contractors can learn. Here are some of them.
1. Contractors need to be proactive in meeting preliminary notice requirements
Cash is tight in times of crisis. As the economy comes to a standstill, construction businesses will need to deal with decreasing profits. They may even have to dip into their own cash reserves to cover fixed expenses and their employees’ salaries.
In times like this, it is crucial that contractors perform due diligence in protecting their right to get paid. The first step in doing so is to prepare preliminary notices. These notices are an important step in the mechanics lien process and without them, chances contractors will not be able to recover the unpaid compensation for the materials they furnished and services they rendered.
2. Force majeure provisions are crucial parts of a contract
The novel coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of force majeure provisions in construction contracts. Before the COVID-19 crisis hit business operations, force majeure provisions were typically considered as simple boilerplate clauses. This means they were just there as a standard part of contracts.
However, the same force majeure clauses, as well as impossibility of performance provisions, have become crucial in the current crisis. As many construction businesses experience difficulties with their operations, they may not be able to fulfill their contractual responsibilities. The said clauses can give contractors a much-needed reprieve.
As the current crisis continues, contractors should review contracts as these provisions can give them more time to finish the job. And in the hopefully near future when the crisis ends, business owners should review the contract creation process and ensure that these clauses included in contracts will be able to address the impact of situations similar to COVID-19.
3. Having solid internal communication is crucial
There’s a lot of uncertainty with the COVID-19 situation. With work operations temporarily stopping, the circumstances can be quite stressful for employees. There will be doubts and fears within your workforce on whether work will be back to normal as soon as possible or not.
Keeping your workforce well-informed and trusting of your organization is crucial, especially in this time of uncertainty. That is why it is paramount that you have a solid internal communication infrastructure to disseminate information about the current work situation and the next steps that the business will take. In addition, only through proper employee communication can the implementation of social distancing and hygiene measures be effective.
4. Contractors can benefit from flexible work arrangements
As the coronavirus crisis has made it necessary for everyone to stay at home, construction businesses should look for ways to continue operations. Expanded work arrangements such as work-from-home setups may just be the solution.
Of course, most of the physical work that is needed to be done on-site will be impossible to do at home, but office-based functions such as sales, client relations, design, and administrative roles can still continue. This can even have additional benefits to productivity and health. And when the crisis is over, business owners should consider incorporating these work arrangements into their operations permanently.
The COVID-19 crisis is not showing any sign of stopping soon, and even when it ends, it will take quite a long time before we can be back to business as usual. As the crisis continues, however, business owners should take the situation as a learning experience.
Once the COVID-19 crisis is over, it will take a long time for things to go back to normal. In fact, things may not end up going back to the way they were before and businesses will need to adapt to the new normal. However the situation evolves, business owners should take this opportunity to learn new things and maintain resilience in trying times.
About the Author:
Patrick Hogan is the CEO of Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.