Turning Challenges into Opportunities: 3 Ways to Flip the Script in 2020

In my conversations with commercial fabricators and architects, there still seems to be a sense of optimism about market health amid the pandemic. While jobs have decreased in size and there has been some softening, work is steady.

Regardless of current circumstances, it pays to stay optimistic and keep moving forward because times of adversity often springboard us toward something greater down the road. We’re learning a lot about ourselves as individuals and as companies. And we’re learning about our own resiliency and how to act quickly to turn perceived challenges into long-term opportunities.

I’m lucky enough to get to work with a wide range of companies serving commercial construction—and here are three ways I’ve seen for us to take advantage of the times in which we live:

  1. Widen your virtual circle. In 2019, which seemed like a century ago now, we had to go through approvals to schedule in-person meetings. For some, travel costs or time made it prohibitive to get together with colleagues or suppliers, limiting our interactions to a smaller circle. Unless there was an association meeting or tradeshow, it was rare to have suppliers, architects and glazing contractors all together in the same place.

    One of the many things that 2020 has taught us is how to use remote collaboration systems out of necessity. We’ve become experts in this technology, removing the barriers to collaboration that might have once existed. This is the perfect time to widen your circle of collaborators online and facilitate conversations across the supply chain not only to meet the needs of projects, but to look proactively for ways to share ideas that will help us shape the future of the industry.

    The architectural and design community is also settling into a new norm of remote work—and many are using it as a chance to earn their needed CE credits. Now is a great time to reach out, educate and help them fulfill their educational needs virtually.

  1. Take steps toward automation. If implemented correctly, automation has the power to improve quality, efficiency and product consistency. It can also help to offset the effects of the labor challenge and facilitate the physical distancing needed in plants and in the workplace. However, a move to full automation might not be feasible in this economic climate. If it’s not in the cards at the moment, companies can take more cost-effective steps toward realizing their automation goals.

    It’s a good time to explore options to gain efficiencies whether it’s through manual means, semi-automation or full automation. This is not an all or nothing deal. There are “in between” steps that can be made and added to as the future allows. The best thing is to reach out to your suppliers, discuss your goals with them and find incremental means that will help you with whatever challenge you are having now and prepare you for what comes next—think of it as an opportunity to explore solutions that you can grow into.

  1. Enrich your company culture. The labor issue isn’t going to go away anytime soon, so retaining your current employee base has become paramount. For most—if not all—companies, health and safety have been top priorities for years before the pandemic hit. We’ve all implemented measures that reduce or eliminate threats of personal injury in the workplace. But in today’s world, we must take them a step further to include ensuring a proper work-life balance.

    Everyone has been affected by the pandemic differently, either directly or indirectly. Like many of us, employees are playing the role of parent, partner, caregiver, teacher, chef—and so much more. Providing balance and flexibility when possible can mean more to them than any other benefit that can be provided. So, when it comes to retention, be sure to build balance into your culture in some way. It can make a big difference and go a long way in keeping your existing workforce intact and ready to tackle the next challenge that comes your way.

Take the time—it will be worth it.

If you’re like most professionals out there, you’re thinking that a lot of this is easier said than done. Every day you are presented with a new set of challenges that keep you from thinking beyond the day, the week or the month. But, as the old saying goes, if you do that you won’t be able to see the forest for the trees. The biggest thing you can do right now is step back and look at the big picture and see what small steps you can take now to create a more sustainable future for your company.

And if you don’t know where to start, reach out to your suppliers and colleagues for inspiration and to see how other companies are flipping the script in 2020.

What challenges have you turned into opportunities this year? Let’s talk about it. Email me directly at Joe.Erb@Quanex.com.