How the construction business is going through quarantine
Victoria Popovich, Director of Real Estate Investment Company "Obriy", founder of the volunteer project "Babysitters for Medical’s Children"
A quarantine is a little life. It has affected us, our way of life, our relationships, forcing us to change our view of the most seemingly unshakable aspects of it. The quarantine affected every industry as well as a single company.
As the head of the construction business, I could, in addition to adapting the processes to the new conditions, observe people and organizations: their reactions, what they said, what decisions and on what prerequisites they were made. This is a truly new, incomparable experience. And I realise that I am ready to summarise and share this experience.
Let's start with the fact that the "advice to go online" beloved by all coaches is not applicable for builders. Well, you won't be able to dig the foundation from your computer or pull the pipes, no matter how hard you try. Secondly, developers cannot go "in autonomous swimming," to create a closed cycle. We always cooperate with a number of other companies, which means that during the quarantine we were directly dependent on their reaction. And finally, developers have their own staff, which have a number of characteristics.
Factor one:... plus the digitalization of the whole country
A challenge. Construction is not IT, we can't go online. And it cannot switch labour to robots. But a construction company, like any other, can digitalize some of the processes. At least those related to promotion, communication, and marketing.
What we did. We have adjusted the approach to the promotion strategy, refocusing it on digital as the main source of communication. Social networks have allowed our company to both follow the marketing plan and maintain communication with investors.
Simply put, we understood that in a situation of transport collapse, not everyone could watch their future house grow. That's why we regularly communicated with our customers, posted photos and videos. It was also noticeable that during the quarantine people became attentive to any information and documents. That's why we answered all the questions in as much detail as possible.
Why did we succeed in it? The issue of digitalization proved to be quite solvable. At least because partly our marketing and communication have already been online. It was only necessary to increase the volume of their presence in the network, as well as to change the communication plan, to correct the essence of the information that we gave.
What's changed. Now offline advertising, communication and sales tools have been re-launched but we will stay online. Because SMM works.
Factor two: The people
A challenge. Staff were the first to react to the news of the coronavirus – everyone in a different way! Some immediately panicked, some, on the contrary, neglected the elementary rules of safety, the rest were just confused.
What we did. We organized the transportation of our employees, purchased and distributed personal protection items and conducted a briefing. At the same time, we told people that we do not know what kind of infection it is, how dangerous it is and how long the quarantine will last. We have promised to do our best to live up to our commitments and protect employees. Therefore, the work would continue, but they had a choice - to stay or quit.
It is no secret that many builders are nonresidents working on the shift method. So, some of them hurried to go home. However, there were no mass self-quitting. Perhaps because working outdoors is not so dangerous.
Why did we succeed in it? After about a month of quarantine, the reverse process began - an influx of people willing to work. This is understandable: the quarantine was introduced on time, it worked, and in a number of areas, especially the western, it turned out to be almost more dangerous than in the capital. Earned money began to come to an end, and in Ukraine from abroad poured a stream of skilled workers, which created competition.
What's changed. I am sure that this trend will increase. Domestically, transport was launched, and the borders were not fully opened. Everyone, both people and countries, expect a second wave of the virus. And it is better to get sick at home and with a financial cushion than without it and abroad. That is, the workforce, at least in our company - will be enough.
Factor three: The contractors
A challenge. Even the largest company is not fully autonomous. It has contractors to perform certain types of work, there are suppliers of materials and equipment. This means that changes in the work of any of such link affect the whole chain in one way or another.
What we did. Virus and quarantine are the same for everyone, but companies have reacted to it very differently. And it did not always depend on the adequacy of the leadership itself, often it was about some objective circumstances. Some adapted work to the new conditions too slowly, or a leading manager fell ill, or a supply was stuck at the border.
This is natural: even the most well-established processes were designed for "peacetime", so in the new circumstances a number of systems had to be rebuilt. We tried as hard as possible to meet the situation, to adapt, to understand the problems of our partners and to help, if it was in our power, to solve them.
Why did we do it? We always distributed risks and "put eggs in different baskets." Yes, we worked with all individually, we had to apply extraordinary solutions, to be flexible, and to change something in our own plans. But it was managed so as to avoid real delays and fallout from the schedule.
What's changed. We now have a better understanding of who we are dealing with - crisis situations show it perfectly. This means that it will be easier for us to make decisions about expanding the cooperation or winding it down. It's important when you want to build with quality.
The main factor: The investors
A challenge. The most important thing for us is customers. At least because without them, everything we do doesn't make sense. This means that we must preserve and reassure those who are already with us. We understood that for most of our buyers, buying an apartment is more a necessity than a wish. This means that compliance with deadlines becomes a matter of principle.
What we did. We continued to build, observing the deadlines. It required new investments and solutions, but we knew that it was not easy for everyone.
Our reason is: if a building should be completed this summer, it means that the person is relying on this date. Maybe he paid the rent until July or chose a school for a child near the new home. And he is not interested in what force majeure may stop his move. Our company has made every effort to ensure that the investor receives what’s promised.
Why did we do it? We understood that in times of crisis the incomes of the population were falling. This means that the real estate is also sagging. In March, it plunged, in April almost froze. But we continued to build and communicate, worked and were honest.
What's changed. By the end of spring there was a slight revival. And most importantly, sales went on. This means that what we have been doing has worked not only for today's investors, but also for future ones. And in this regard, we noticed that the main focus has shifted from the issue of price to the issue of reputation. We can say that the reputation is the key to future sales.
Instead of conclusions
The quarantine has affected all people, families, communities, and organizations. It touched on the way of life, communication, work, vocation - everything. Only those who were initially ready for challenges and surprises - and during the crisis understood and accepted the new realities, and began to adapt to them - will be able to survive and successfully come out of it.
Will one of the consequences of coronavirus become another freeze of construction? Certainly, yes. But those companies that will be able to fulfill all the promises will strengthen their position in the market. I'm glad our "Obriy" is among them.