The kbbreview Unlockdown Diaries: The fitter

As retail officially reopened on June 15, kbbreview asked key industry figures to keep a diary of the week as a snapshot of the post-lockdown market. First up is Mark Conacher, md of Liberty Fitting in Dundee






Monday, June 15, 2020

If we assume an average lifespan of 80 years, this means we would roughly have just over 4,000 weeks. That’s 4,000 Mondays.

The alarm went off as ever at 5am this morning – Monday morning. It’s a special day for many as we go from Lockdown to Liberation.  It’s now time to make every Monday count.

There are definitely going to be winners and losers after this covid-19 lockdown and, I don’t know why, but I feel excited. I think it’s the challenge. The next few weeks and months will be telling as it’s easy to stay afloat when the government is paying everything. Now the pressure is on for sure but I feel confident.

Today starts like any other working day, calling around the guys, making sure everyone is happy and healthy. Checking everyone knows what they are doing, has their plans, their materials and knows where they are going.

Two jobs starting today, one kitchen, one bathroom. Both empty properties, which means no customers around during the day, which definitely helps.  Day one of any job is obviously a strip out and roughing day. Both will need plasterboard and plaster work. Due to the shutdown, it’s been difficult to get plasterboard and multi-finish plaster.

Noticed a rise in the traffic around the website.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020 

Today was a good day under any circumstance.

After speaking to our plasterer early this morning, he managed to get his hands on multi-finish at the weekend, so we can relax on the plaster front. I think we are going to find random stuff like this hard to get. He said he got it on the black market, and it cost extra. I asked if he offered toilet paper in exchange. He hung up haha.

We were emailed a couple of store fits this morning, which was a real bonus. Liberty have always worked with the big sheds as well as carrying out our own work. On the whole I have always found them good to work with and it’s great to see that they are starting to sell again – a really positive sign.

The day was rounded off with a private kitchen enquiry by email and a call from another customer looking for a new kitchen. She seems really keen and wants us to survey via Zoom on Thursday afternoon. Obviously, video calling has been around for a little while but it’s the customers’ acceptance of this as a perfectly standard way to carry out a survey that’s been the surprise. It will be a complete game changer for businesses that embrace it.

 Wednesday,  June 17 2020

Don’t get me started about click and collect.

Some of the merchants are asking you to order online and they give you a time slot for a day or so later to pick up your materials. Sounds good until you need to add to the order.

Today, one of our fitters was picking up some flooring. While he was there the customer had rung in to ask if it was possible to add to the area being floored. It was only one extra pack, no problem. Except the merchant couldn’t or wouldn’t.

“You’ll have to order that through click and collect and pick it up tomorrow afternoon!”

Really?! Don’t you just love companies that go the extra mile for you.

Talked to our fitters and a few of our sub-contractors today again about social distancing, just to ask how everyone was getting on and if there were any distancing issues. The overall consensus was that people everywhere are worryingly laid back about it all.

We still have two guys furloughed, so I checked in with them to make sure they were ok. They obviously can’t work but they can undertake training and both are going through online modules that have been made available, which is awesome.

Another job booked in to price up, happy days.

Thursday,  June 18, 2020 

Even though I furloughed myself for all 91 days of March, I still kept the same routine of getting up at 5am. The discipline of that routine kept me sane, I think. I wasn’t working but I was still working on myself, I was still connecting with people. I studied, I read, I visited the fridge and stared in, just like a teenager again.

Being back at work properly now, doing all the things I usually do feels good. It’s good to be back. It’s good to talk with customers again. It’s strangely good to deal with issues.

It’s taking a little time getting used to the fact that most things take twice as long as they did before this pandemic but somehow, I think that’s ok. I’m liking this pace.

But I definitely need a haircut! I had to wear a baseball cap for the Zoom survey call today. First impressions and all that but without it she would have thought Carlos Valderrama had started fitting kitchens.

Not the biggest kitchen in the world but she wanted one company to do everything, so she came to the right place. I’m convinced we will get this this job already. She loves us. I think it might have been the cap.

Friday, June 19 2020 

I woke up this morning and wondered how many people were thinking “thank God it’s Friday”.

Something tells me not as many. It’s a strange one. I can’t say it’s a feeling I ever get.

Checked in first thing on the installations. A lot of jobs would normally complete on a Friday for us, but it won’t happen now. Fitters working completely on their own. Having to ship out to let other trades in to do their own thing, alone. Jobs will take longer, it’s just a fact of life.

Time really is money, but I think by giving even more focus to organisation and having multiple jobs running for the guys to jump onto is going to help us get through this sticky period. I remind myself that it won’t be forever.

Ping, ping, ping, that’s been the noise of my emails all day. I don’t know if it’s something I’ve written somewhere being picked up or our Google ads (which we never turned off during the shutdown), but I can’t remember the last time we were as busy as this, it’s been crazy.

We don’t have the sale yet; they all need to be planned and priced. Will we get them? Are they real? How many will turn out to be time wasters?

It’s been a long week. Thank God it’s Friday…

Saturday, June 20, 2020 

Saturday is always a different kind of day, most of the guys aren’t working so the phone calls and texts dramatically drop off. Time to turn the focus onto pricing, catching up with any customers needing TLC from the past week and start the preparations for the following week.

I’m not 100% sure what will make some businesses succeed and some fail coming out of this, but the signs are there that business, for us at least, could be ok.

The customers are calling, only time will tell if they spend. The city seems relaxed. The guys insist it’s a little too relaxed.  As a company, we will continue to adhere to all the health and safety protocol: the cleaning down of surfaces, the social distancing, the hand washing. I think the way forward is to absolutely embrace it but not get too hung up on it. I initially thought the safety side of things was a point we would need to sell hard. I think if we just do it and get on with it, that’s not the case.

Spare a thought for one of our fitters. His wife won’t allow him through the door after work. He has to strip down to his smalls at the back door, sanitise and then straight to the shower before he gets a ‘hello’.

It’s a good reminder that there are still some people very worried out there and rightly so, people are still losing their life to covid-19.

We need to make sure we ‘Stay Safe and Work Smart’.

Find out more about Liberty here

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