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Opinion: Embrace change for better projects

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If you remodeled or built anything in the past year, you may have quickly recognized the importance of planning, being flexible, developing a contingency plan and then developing a contingency plan for your contingency plan.

There has never been a time where balancing timelines, cost and flexibility has been more important. We are still feeling shortages in several materials in the construction industry, so there are times when it comes down to waiting on a supplier to reopen or selecting a new brand. Some shortages, such as lumber, have been widespread enough for people outside of the industry to take notice. Other shortages are less obvious and may only impact specific brands. Something as simple as a brand of shingles can have impacts on a project.

Talk it out
Communication from day one is important during this time. Be honest about what is important to you. Do you have a deal breaker? If so, what is it? Is there a specific date that you need the project completed? Is there a specific product you are building a project around because it is your inspiration piece? Communicate with your design and construction team early on to determine what is a deal breaker and where you can give a little.

Being flexible on brands or colors of a product can sometimes save you in price and the production time. Communicating your preferences early on will allow a contractor to plan ahead. Not all materials can be purchased at the very beginning of a project unless there is ample storage space. But ordering items in advance is key. Expect longer lead times and delays, then plan accordingly. Part of contingency planning is being prepared to move forward with other areas of a project if one trade or order is delayed.

Transparency also is more important than ever. Having hard discussions about possible price increases, delays and other potential issues from the beginning ensures both parties are on the same page. Build your budget to be prepared for these types of changes even if you have flexibility. In a world of unknowns, being prepared for cost increases can make or break a project.

Beware of challenges
Every industry has had to adjust. As the year progressed, more businesses felt the ebb and flow of employees needing to quarantine due to an exposure or positive COVID-19 case. The bottom line: We all have felt challenges. Anyone with clients and customers assigned to a specific person or group have dealt with the learning curve of picking up where someone else left off when necessary. Construction is no different. The industry could definitely be considered a team sport, and losing a player has a distinct impact on efficiency.

The construction industry has faced manpower shortages for years, so contractors are often picking and choosing the projects they will take on. Even with safety measures in place, quarantines and other issues impact the number of crews available. While some industries really struggled, construction has not been faced with massive layoffs this year. Most contractors still have open positions they are struggling to fill.

Plan A, B and C
Contingency planning is important for all aspects of business. It is simply planning to be prepared for something to change or go wrong. Regardless of your industry, planning for the best- and worst-case scenarios ensures you can pivot as things change. The act of planning, being flexible and having contingency plans allows you to focus on the positive aspects and excitement for your project. Being enthusiastic about your project helps you to roll with the changes when necessary. Look at necessary changes as opportunities, not losses.

As you plan for 2021, be mindful in your everyday approach to projects, your work and your attitude. Focus on planning ahead, being flexible, practicing open and transparent communication, planning for change, and having a positive attitude.

Megan Short is executive director of the Springfield Contractors Association. She can be reached at megan@springfieldcontractors.org.

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