To Stop Projects or Keep Working? That is the Question.

I grew up in the construction industry, and I’ve never left. That’s 39 years in or around construction.

I have a brother two years older than me. When he turned 16 and got his driver's license, I had a way to get to and from work. So, from the age of 14 - 22, my brother and I spent every summer working for our family’s construction business, either in the warehouse or on jobsites.

At 22, I graduated from college and started working for the family business full time. I did that for 12 years, until I stepped away to focus 100 percent on LaborChart.

Since 2015, I’ve been at LaborChart working with contractors all over the world. And, because of the experiences I had at my family business, I was able to develop a deep understanding of how our industry operates and what it means to the world and its economy.

For example, most people have no idea what a brutal business contracting is. They see drawings of projects and watch as those projects are built. They have no idea the personal and financial pressures that each contractor faces with each project. Until you are actually a part of the business, it’s impossible to comprehend. To survive and thrive as a contractor, it takes a level of grit, selective-dismissiveness, persistence and tenacity that measures off the charts.

These traits are some of my favorite aspects about the industry. Not only do they define how my family business survived for several generations, but I like to think they’ve been passed on and instilled in me.

But today, it’s these traits that cause me to pause and be concerned for all of us.

Stop Projects or Keep Working?

After reading Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now, we thought we had plenty of data to make the call to work from home–and the truth is, it was an easy decision. We’re a technology business, we can stay 100 percent productive from anywhere we have an internet connection.

That said, while trying to meet the challenges of operating a technology business, I’m also thinking through what I would do if I were still a contractor - playing out different options and scenarios. I don’t envy the choices many of you face.

The two primary options I see are:

  1. Shut down all projects for “x” weeks and mandate work from home/sit at home
  2. Keep working

Option 1

Shut down all projects for “x” weeks and mandate everyone work from home/sit at home.

This is what I would want to do -- buy some time to learn more, then reassess and adjust every week or two.

The risks associated with this route, include:

  1. I have a contract with my customer that says I will stay current with the project schedule. If I don’t, there are legal and financial consequences.
  2. I don’t want to stop paying my employees. If work stops, I only have enough cash for a couple pay-cycles.
  3. I don’t want to lose my entire business. Similar to number two, we don’t sit on much cash. We can only invoice and collect cash for the work we put in place. If we don’t put work in place, we stop getting paid. If COVID-19 gets worse and the shutdown lasts 6-8 weeks, I could be out of business.

Option 2

Continue working.

Since I can’t shut down my projects, I really have no other option than to continue working.

The risks associated with this route, include:

  1. Safety and health of my workforce, community, and country.
  2. Internal friction and frustrations stemming from different rules for different employees (office vs. field.)
  3. Internal uncertainty.
    • As the contractor: Am I making the right decision?
    • As the worker: Should I show up to work tomorrow?

Final Thoughts

From what I know about construction, and the people in it, if left to the business to decide, Option 2 will get chosen 99 percent of the time. If I were still a contractor, I think it’s the option I would have chosen, not because I wanted to, but because I had no other option.

And because it’s instilled in us, I would believe that I would be able to figure out any mess that presented itself in the future. Why not? It’s what we do. It’s what has gotten us to where we are today.

But, what if that mindset and strategy doesn’t work here?

I wish we could find another option and pause for a couple weeks.

- Ben Schultz

 

 

Articles and resources that we’re using to help us approach this situation:

 


 

Ben Schultz, LaborChart CEO

Ben Schultz

Founder and CEO

Ben Schultz is founder and CEO of LaborChart. Prior to LaborChart, Ben was a fourth generation electrical contractor for 12 years. He's a husband, a father of three, and enjoys playing golf, spending time with family, and coaching his kids' sports.