Mitch Reaves, President and CEO of N.B. Handy, is hopeful that business will pick up in the last half of 2009, but he doesn’t expect activity to be as high as it was in the first half of 2008, and he notes there are no guarantees it will improve from current levels. “A lot of investors and individuals are sitting on the sidelines waiting for the dust to settle,” he said.
“My advice to contractors would be not to wait for your sales to improve if revenue is not meeting expectations. The safer bet is to align operating cost with current sales and firm contracts,” said Reaves. He also notes challenging times for contractors and suppliers mandate closer communications and stronger working relationships. “If a contractor is experiencing short-term cash flow problems, transparency and collaboration will get better results and support from distribution. Most distributors have reduced staff and fleet and no one wants idle resources or insufficient operational capacity, but we can respond better and more effectively to our customer needs with good communication and material needs planning. The more we know, the better we can help contractors keep jobs flowing uninterrupted and our costs aligned with sales.”
Asked about trends to keep an eye on, he replied, “On the commercial side, we’re seeing more of the transition from asphalt systems to single ply alternatives. Within single ply, we’re seeing more movement to TPO. We’re also seeing thicker insulation and anything related to energy efficiency - environmental friendly, green, and cool roofing products - are more in demand, particularly in institutional, government, and school projects.”
“We’re in a pretty unique environment,” he concluded. “While we’ve all been through recessions, this one is different. There is hardly a person who has not been touched directly nor had a relative, neighbor, or friend who has not been affected by this economy. It has affected all of us at a deeper level than we’ve seen in the past, but it will pass. ‘When’ is the question.”