WMA Headlines July/August 2022

July 28th, 2022 by Nathan Hobbs

Growing Pains: Has COVID Changed the Millwork Industry for the Better?

By Townes Parsley

My Dad always said, “If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.” The challenges of a global pandemic and breakdowns in the supply chain across the world have been painful for us, as I’m sure they’ve been for your business as well. The struggles we’ve been through as an industry have been significant, but I would say that, in some ways, the events of the past two years have been good for us in the long run. With no choice but to adapt and evolve, we in millwork have taught ourselves how to succeed far beyond our current challenges, partly by leveraging digital business strategies and tools.

Agile Communication

Inflation rates are the highest they’ve been in more than three decades, and manufacturers have had to take serious looks at pricing to stay profitable. In years past, our typical model included taking a price increase in the third or early fourth quarter of the year, then developing an annual price list that we printed for our customers. In recent years, we had to shake up that model, taking more than one price increase a year in some cases. Without email marketing and virtual meetings, we wouldn’t have been able to communicate these changes quickly enough to give customers time to adjust. Even in the early days of the pandemic, these two digital resources allowed us to do things such as clarify the safety measures in our facilities, set expectations for shipping partners, and share other information that had to be circulated quickly.

Maintaining Relationships

While much of the country was unable to travel or even meet for coffee, many felt the strain of maintaining professional and personal relationships. For those of us who thrive when we’re out in the field making connections, that stung. However, we’ve learned new ways to stay connected through intentional outreach with technology. In addition to virtual calls and email, we and our industry peers have leveraged video to tell stories, deployed targeted mailers to add a personal touch, and used websites to offer quick answers.

Selling Better

Some of the digital infrastructures we’ve established, such as a customer relationship management platform and digital marketing automation, have helped our sales, marketing and customer service teams work together more efficiently to benefit customers. These working relationships will always be separated by distance and they’re made stronger by the rapid adoption of digital business tools. Now, when we send messages or make calls, we can align the whole team around what happened.

We have seen our customers and companies across the industry embrace digital transformation, and industry leaders have stepped up to help companies like ours understand the impact on our space. Together, we’ve faced many of the same challenges, and we’ve all shown incredible resilience and adaptability. Now we stand at a turning point. No matter how the situation evolves, the businesses that carry lessons forward are the ones that will succeed long term. We’ll see you on the other side.

Townes Parsley is senior vice president of ODL Inc. and associate vice president for World Millwork Alliance.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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