During the pandemic, the CDC released its official guidelines for healthier indoor environments. "Open your windows for fresh air and better ventilation" was one of its top recommendations for homes, schools and workplaces.
Although it has always been true that fresh air is a crucial component of good health, this timely recommendation boded well for the fenestration industry as a whole. Money saved from canceled vacations, not having to commute or dress up for work, and staying home translated into a huge surge in home improvement projects--many of which included replacing worn-out windows and window screens.
Now that most mask mandates have been lifted, people are returning to their workplaces, and large indoor social gatherings are happening again, open windows and proper ventilation are still very much at the forefront of conversations about our health. But the events that led to the boom in our industry have also created a new challenge: shortages.
Chances are very good that your company is currently experiencing either a raw materials shortage or difficulty hiring new employees. And there is no indication that either of these challenges will end soon.
As is so often the case in business, it may be time to reevaluate and pivot, and here are a few suggestions that may help in the current climate.
Revisit your hiring practices, wages, and benefits
First, make sure that your job openings are visible with targeted marketing strategies. Spend some money to get more eyes on your ads, and make sure those ads offer attractive benefits. Even though it may not feel like the right time to do so, consider upping your wages (on all or some specific shifts), increasing your benefits package and implementing bonus incentives for things like referrals, perfect attendance and overtime. Unfortunately, many people have gotten very comfortable with enhanced unemployment benefits, and these incentives may help entice them back into the workforce.
Thoughtfully communicate price increases
Because of the current scarcity and price increases on many essential raw materials, you will likely need to raise your prices. How you communicate this change will have a lot to do with how it is received. You can soften the blow by assuring your customers that the price increase is temporary and will be reduced as soon as costs normalize. Whatever way you choose, just be sure that it's well thought out, fair and expressed with empathy and a self-awareness that shows you have your finger on the pulse of the industry. Then, keep your word to earn additional credibility, loyalty and respect.
One thing that may help with both the materials and labor shortage is outsourcing. Are there processes that you can take off your floor, such as insulated glass or window screens? This move could potentially alleviate a good deal of the production strain you may be experiencing.
It's been quite a year for our industry and the world. But, as my wise, lifelong entrepreneur grandfather always told me, "Either way, this won't last."