When it comes to catastrophic weather, Denny Freeman, owner of Cutting Edge Coating Services in Gulfport, Miss., knows a thing or two. He has lived and worked through Hurricane Katrina and, most recently, Tropical Storm Barry. “I don’t ever want to go through another weather event like Katrina again,” he says. “But we’re having more rain than we’ve had for a long time. It shuts down our exterior work, but we’re blessed with interior work to offset that.”
Working on interiors is just one way to mitigate possible losses from bad weather, which, if the Union of Concerned Scientists is correct, is only going to get worse. Extreme heat and cold; droughts; floods; hurricanes; deadlier storms can all mean time and money lost for painting contractors.
But Brandon Lewis, founder of The Academy for Professional Painting Contractors, has advice: “Since you can’t control the weather, do not waste any mental energy worrying about it. Instead, focus on strategies that mitigate its impact.”
Lewis suggests the following tips:
Just as Freeman does, put your crews on interior projects during rain days and continue to put exterior projects in the queue. But also, run a customer reactivation campaign of your entire past clients list. That will help you discover interior projects quickly.
To make sure you are maximizing your billable hours when the weather is good, consider bringing on a flex subcontract crew to process simple, high-margin whole-house exteriors. Remember: You cannot “make up” for lost billable hours later if your crew size and capacity remain the same.
Do not let being “backed up” with exterior projects prevent you from marketing your painting services. You may only lose 10% to 20% of booked painting projects because of weather delays. You will lose out on 100% of projects that you do not estimate.
Have a serious discussion with your painters about the necessity of working longer days and on the weekends when the weather is nice. This allows you to keep a steady stream of revenue coming in and allows them to work enough hours to provide for their families.
Keep your clients abreast of weather delays well before the projected start date approaches. If you wait until the day before a project starts to spring the “weather delay card,” they will have far less sympathy.
But on a day-to-day basis, you still have to be on the lookout for weather changes. Freeman, who does mostly commercial work, says that he has several weather apps on his phone including Weather Bug and the Weather Channel to check what Mother Nature has in store. If high heat is on the roster — “last week it was 110,” he says — crew members start early, work on the shady side of the building, wear hats, drink plenty of water and take frequent breaks. “And we stagger the workers so we can keep up production during the day.”
The weather is fickle, but “You can’t live looking over your shoulder,” Freeman says. “Life goes on. We live on the Gulf Coast, and wet weather is naturally part of our scenario.”
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