Posted by: Amy Cafazzo, Owner, Studio A Marketing
On February 3rd we had a unique Women in Remodeling Event (WIRE). The sold-out event virtually gathered our remodeling colleagues to hear from industry leaders and exchange ideas regarding key issues that have impacted our industry, specifically over the past year, as we’ve adapted our businesses to the pandemic.
Three smaller breakout discussion groups were created and led by some of our leading female remodeling partners. Members of the EM NARI PR Committee attended the discussions and have shared their key takeaways from each group…
“Changes in the Environment” – Led by Kim Dow, President, Dovercraft Construction and Sarah Lawson, Owner, S + H Construction
Reported by Amy Cafazzo, Owner, Studio A Marketing and member of the PR Committee
Our discussions focused on ways to nurture women in the remodeling industry. While we are seeing more women in building and remodeling in the last few years, remodeling remains a male-dominated industry. In fact, Kim reports she joined NARI in 1982 and meetings were almost exclusively men–but times have changed!
Today, women in positions of leadership are working to nurture the next generation of female remodelers, but there’s no simple answer when it comes to attracting more women. Over the past year, many women have had to stay home to care for children who are no longer in school–an issue that has impacted the overall workforce across industries. Many business leaders are looking at mentoring trade school students and cultivating them to join the company in the future, although this is a many years’-long investment.
Sarah offered an open invitation to mentor women coming up in the remodeling industry–particularly those who may want to own a construction business in the future. She suggested, “Don’t wait. If you see ownership in your future, be proactive. Women tend to hesitate and shouldn’t.” She shared her own story of approaching the previous owners of S + H Construction with a specific proposal to purchase the company–one that panned out!
Participants agreed that too often, women hesitate to pursue new opportunities unless they feel 100% positive that they have the right skills rather than go out on a limb. Kim added, “If you can envision it, it can come to fruition–although perhaps not in the way you had originally imagined.” The key to success, according to Kim, is to “Take more risks” and ask yourself “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail or had nothing to lose?”
Key takeaways included a discussion about what skills women need to succeed in the remodeling industry and perhaps own a remodeling business, including:
- An entrepreneurial spirit–without risk, there’s no reward!
- Finding great “sounding boards”–other women who will “lift you up” and who are willing to discuss your ideas and provide feedback throughout your career
“Changes in Ourselves”–Led by Allison Iantosca, Owner, FH Perry and Julie Palmer, President, Charlie Allen Renovations
Reported by Melissa Bunis, Owner, Boston Stone Restoration and member of the PR Committee
Our topic was how has COVID-19 changed you personally. Although many participants discussed personal issues, we did drift into how COVID has changed our businesses. I think many business owners especially have a hard time separating the two!
The overall sentiment from the majority of the group was that COVID has made us all more attuned to our authentic selves. Type A people were forced to slow down, but it made them appreciate the work/ life balance more. Meanwhile, Type B people were happier with the slower pace.
Some people said they were able to appreciate nature more. And that COVID was a silver lining in the recalibration of nature (less smog etc.) Many discussed working harder on self-care, yoga, meditation, and exercise as a way to cope with the added stress of COVID.
We all learned to become flexible and learn new routines, i.e. PIVOTING!
A big topic of discussion was how hard the pandemic has been on working moms with school-age kids. Some moms said they have had to cut back on hours. The sentiment that women are taking more of the burden of childcare and household responsibilities was echoed as well. These are not new issues, but the pandemic has certainly made it even harder on some women.
This topic drifted over to how difficult it can be working on renovations in a home that would normally be empty during the day when parents are at work and kids are at school. Now the projects are going on while everyone is home. This segued into the topic of communication. Many attendees mentioned that since there is no longer in-person communication in the office, how important it is to have good communication with both coworkers and clients to make sure expectations are met. Also discussed was the importance of client comfort with COVID protocols, since different clients have different levels of comfort with workers in their homes.
One unexpected topic was the idea of survivor’s guilt. We have all been fortunate that our industry has not suffered as much as others, such as the hospitality industry. Some of our companies are actually doing better than before due to the uptick in home improvement and home office renovations. A few attendees said they felt bad that they were thriving while others are suffering so much.
Lastly, many of the participants discussed how COVID has helped them distill the relationships in their lives. Some were surprised at reconnecting with old friends on Zoom or Facetime. Others mentioned how they had let their casual relationships falter. More than one person mentioned that they always thought they were an extrovert, while in reality, they were happy to stay in and not need to constantly be out there networking, etc. We have discovered that we are actually introverted extroverts!!
“Changes in Business”–Led by Kathy DeMeyer, President, Encore Construction, and Megan Taylor, Owner, Taylor HR,
Reported by Cheryl Savvit, Owner, Savvy Words, and member of the PR Committee
The focus of our discussions, and the impact of COVID-19, included:
- HR-related topics including new paid maternity leave mandated by the state of Massachusetts
- Upcoming family medical leave beginning July 1st
- Quarantining during COVID
- Working from home during COVID
- Mask wearing policies
- Recruitment & hiring during COVID
- Employee testing for COVID
- Marketing during the pandemic
Megan Taylor said that Massachusetts is “an employee-friendly state” with policies that benefit employees. She spoke to each group about the changes in MA laws around the new mandate for 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and how that impacts small businesses. She also mentioned the family medical leave act beginning July 1, 2021, which will help employees who need to take time off to care for family members who are ill, some with COVID-19.
Each group was polled and approximately half of the participants were working from home (WFH) during the pandemic. One of the most challenging aspects of WFH was for new employees who were not interacting with colleagues in normal settings, and therefore, may not be aware of company culture or blending in as easily. The discussion also touched on assessing performance remotely and the difficulties surrounding the responsibilities managers have with limited in-person interaction.
Several companies have made sure to schedule more virtual gatherings with employees to encourage interaction and fun.
One of the biggest takeaways from our groups was the “silver linings” of the pandemic:
- People are mindful of the work/life balance while working from home, often dealing with family members while juggling “the job”
- There is a greater sense of authenticity when we’re on Zoom calls and see children, pets, and personal spaces in the background
Another discussion revolved around mask-wearing on job sites, for both homeowners and contractors and subcontractors. The group agreed it is always easier working in homes where the clients have moved out temporarily. While it is not a comfortable discussion, several of the participants have had to ask subcontractors to wear their masks on-site, even outdoors. Many participants said that their companies have clear mask-wearing policies – in the office and on-site. They have conversations with their clients around mask-wearing as well.
Finally, nearly all the companies represented in the groups said they have a policy in place for COVID-19 testing, positive results, and quarantining policies.
The consensus of the groups was that many were busier now than they thought they would be during the pandemic. The groups discussed how to keep their pipelines full once the pandemic subsides and people begin spending their disposable income elsewhere. The bottom line: keep marketing going even during flush times is an important strategy.
Another challenge of marketing that was discussed was how to deal with societal issues like racial injustice or the polarity of politics in a sensitive and thoughtful way. Ignoring the topics seems tone-deaf while delving too deeply risks offending clients and followers.