When you run a field service business, there is no shortage of work to be done. From recruiting, training, and retaining high quality staff, to ensuring top-notch customer service while actively recruiting new customers and managing your cash flow, it can all get a bit overwhelming, and that’s just the beginning.
Over the past year, we’ve all learned to deal better with the unexpected and unplanned. However, even as COVID begins to recede, we’re still dealing with the impact in many ways — including the impact on our supply chains.
Plastic suppliers, for example, cut back on stock levels during the early days of the pandemic with expectations that demand would be low. However, demand actually increased due to changes in consumer buying patterns. Shipping struggled to keep up with demand, and then, hurricanes disrupted the extraction of raw material in the Gulf slowing down production further.
To top it all off, winter storm Uri struck Texas and Louisiana chemical processing and manufacturing plants and crippled their operations. As the Texas energy infrastructure struggled, electricity, oil and natural gas supplies ebbed leading to significant mechanical damage from unusually low temperatures and brought production to a halt.
In short, it created a gigantic mess.
With less plastic is available, deliveries are still being delayed and supplies remain tight. PVC pipe and plumbing supplies, vinyl siding, vapor barriers, resins, paints and coatings are all more difficult to get and more expensive to buy. Some manufacturers are still only able to deliver on 50-70% of customer orders.
While it hits the industries hardest that use PVC piping, such as plumbing or HVAC, or businesses that rely on oil-based products such as painters and roofers, there’s a lesson here for all of us. No matter how well you run your business or how well you prepare for the future, you never know when something outside your control will cause you problems.
Steel prices have also started to skyrocket over the past year. The price of raw steel is up 75% from August 2020 through March 2021, and contractors who regularly use sheet metal know this all too well. Lumber is more than 100% more expensive than it was at this time last year, and suppliers are also having trouble fulfilling orders.
It's fair to say that across the board, contractors of all types are taking a hit when it comes to the supplies that they need to run their businesses.
The Association of General Contractors of America (AGC) recently put out a construction inflation alert warning. 93% of its members report higher costs for materials, parts and supplies. AGC does not see this as a short-term problem either, going so far as to recommend contractors put price-adjustment clauses in future contracts.
When you can’t get your hands on the pieces, parts or materials you need to take care of your customers, the problem becomes yours. If you have to pay more to get the supplies you need to operate, it can risk driving customers away due to price increases, or conversely hurt your bottom line. If you aren't carefully watching your bids or managing your markups, your margins can get crushed.
In this uncertain environment, it’s more important than ever for contractors and field service companies to manage their operations efficiently.
If you haven’t done it already, it’s time to build a formal contingency plan that identifies risk variables and anticipates the steps you need to take to overcome potential obstacles. While we hope the plan never has to be used, you want to have it ready in case you need it.
Having a solid contingency plan in place will help you answer important questions, like what happens if pricing for PVC, sheet metal or lumber continues to rise? How long can you absorb the price increases? How much can you pass on to customers before it hurts demand? If you need to cut back in other areas of your business, where can you do it?
If you’re still managing your business manually using paper, whiteboards or spreadsheets, it’s going to be difficult to figure out. You need an end-to-end automated solution that allows you to manage your business efficiently and track every aspect of your operation.
FieldPulse is an all-in-one management app for service contractors that helps organize your business to manage your costs, your customers and your employees. Let FieldPulse's top-notch management software do the heavy lifting, with features like these:
With FieldPulse, you can spend less time running the administrative side of your business and more time on providing outstanding customer service. We help streamline your business so you can run it more efficiently and productively whether you’re at the office or in the field.
Schedule a free demo today and find out how FieldPulse can save you time and money.