By Eliabel Munoz-Fauth
It can reasonably be said that no individual or business entity could possibly have been prepared to deal with the magnitude of the Covid-19 pandemic. So many of us were touched directly by the loss of loved ones, loss of income, personal health issues, and other socio-economic concerns. Now that we are in what one might call the peri-pandemic stage of this unprecedented event we can start assessing how small business fared. Before the pandemic hit in 2020, small businesses were either stretched thin on the verge of failing, some were just maintaining, and others were thriving and robust. But how are they doing now?
This article is the first in a series that will catalog how local small business entrepreneurs managed to navigate roadblocks, challenges, revamp, and make more meaningful connections as they endeavored to maintain their businesses afloat during the Covid era.
Good News Roofing is a BBB accredited business with an A+ rating based in Kyle, TX. and is owned by Stephen Burnham. Its service area includes Kyle, San Marcos, Austin, Lockhart, Wimberley, New Braunfels, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Georgetown, San Antonio, and all surrounding areas.
Recently, I sat down to conduct my first interview for this series with Brook Vallejo, Project Manager for the company.
Q: How long has Good News Roofing been in operation?
A: The company was bought by Stephen Burnham about 7 years ago. It was under different ownership for 7 years prior to that.
Q: Does your roofing construction company operate seasonally or year-round?
A: Well, normally our peak period for roofing construction is from March through June but we are engaged in working with insurance companies in the various stages of the claims process throughout the year.
Q: Would you say that Covid-19 and the inherent restrictions that came with it impacted your business?
A: We certainly experienced short-term challenges due to the shut-down restrictions in the early months. Once the state of Texas deemed roofing construction an essential business, we were more or less back to business as normal.
Q: Did your business apply for any government-assisted loans during the early months of 2020?
A: Thankfully, we didn't have to and were able to financially recover from the initial shortfall.
Q: What other challenges did you face as a business?
A: Initially, we were affected by a materials shortage and price increases. That's still true to a certain extent even in 2021 and it's an ongoing issue.
According to an update by the NRCA (National Roofing Contractors Association) issued September 20, 2021, roofing material shortages and price increases were explained as follows:
Q: Other than the actual construction of roofs, were there any areas of your business operations that changed in 2020?
A: Stephen was very active in industry related forums on Facebook where he got valuable marketing tips and updates on the industry during this time period. For marketing purposes, we maintain and update a professional website online and a Facebook business page but we also do a lot of marketing to insurance companies in central Texas. We had always used a direct in-office, meet and greet approach before Covid hit. Because of Covid, we had to completely switch to a new approach.
Q: Can you give me some specifics of your new approach?
A. We wanted to remain respectful of the safety concerns of those we did business with in all our areas of interaction. We have up to 60 insurance companies that we deal with on a regular basis. Without being able to meet with insurance reps in person we switched to conducting a lot more phone interactions and added an email marketing component during 2020. Staying digitally connected became a bigger focus for us during 2020.
Q: Could you elaborate a bit on your new email marketing approach?
A. We set up interactive games along with the game criteria online and this proved to be a great way to stay connected with insurance staff. We also conducted a recipe contest with them that turned out to be another fun way to connect and build camaraderie over the topic of food preparation. We then conducted a recipe taste test to decide on the top 3 prize winners. The Good News staff conducted the taste test and we video taped the results as well as the winners being awarded their prizes. Overall, it became a great way to stay connected so we plan to do more digital marketing in the future.
Q: Were there any other challenges you faced in 2020?
A: Yes, one of our biggest challenges was in coordinating and maintaining an effective relationship with our crew. Stephen Burnham, the owner, has always maintained a reputation for being a local contractor who is reliable and trustworthy. As a small company, he doesn't have multiple crews which might help with scheduling jobs like the bigger companies out there. However, we have built a long standing working relationship with one large main and experienced crew that we're very loyal to and truly value as members of our Good News Roofing family. This in turn engenders trust and dependability and they consistently turn out quality and outstanding work. With the help of our dedicated crew we have earned a Super Service Award on Angie's List as well as maintained our A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
This was the first interview in our series and was reflective of how one business dealt with the many challenges presented by the pandemic. Within the next few months, I hope to follow up with other small business owners in Central Texas. If you are a small business owner who would like to be interviewed for this Covid related small business series, please send an email to efauth@vipvirtualoffice.
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Eliabel Munoz-Fauth, writer, entrepreneur, musician, and humanist