A Note from the Editor: Welcome to part 2 of Phil Rosebrook, Jr’s annual prediction series. In part 1 you were able to see how Phil’s predictions for 2021 held up. Now he’s sharing what he sees ahead in 2022’s future. For a deeper dive into this topic, check out this podcast Phil did with C&R Magazine.
Making predictions in today’s business environment is very difficult due to the high speed of change, political uncertainty, health challenges and radically different feelings on the work environment. The next decade will bring changes that will be inconceivable to many, and will radically change the way we work, communicate, learn, travel, purchase and so much more. The reality of this change will be hard to anticipate and if you are not “looking around the corner,” it will take you and your business by surprise.
My recommendation is that you start to study the insure-tech industry, software, and technology to become aware of the developing trends so you will be able to put your company in a position to adapt and capitalize on these changes. With that cautionary note, let’s jump into the top trends that will impact your business and the steps that you can take to help you and your business manage the impacts of these issues.
Prediction #1: Labor Shortage
The first trend to explore revolves around labor. Currently, it is more challenging in most markets to find frontline employees than managers. The factors impacting this issue are many, but the biggest are competition for labor, COVID-19 fears, and government interference with the free market. These factors will continue to cause challenges in finding employees to fill vacant positions. Many companies have had to make changes to their growth plans and capacity due to limited available staff. Many have been able to locate great managers and staff for senior positions in their business – but it does require deliberate activity to locate great people. They are out there, but you need to make locating staff a daily and weekly business activity as this trend will continue
through most, if not all, of the year.
• Make locating staff an important business function. Great employees are already working – you will have
to find them and get them to want to be a part of your team.
• Focus on and communicate the purpose of our work – restoring lives and livelihoods for people, and companies, impacted by disasters in their homes and businesses.
• Focus on company culture – Create a great place to work and one that attracts and retains great people.
• Pay competitively and consider adding bonus compensation plans that allow your staff to increase their compensation as the company does better.
• Include your team on the company plans, direction, and strategy. This will help with engagement and improve individual performance.
• Include families in company activities. Create a bond so families are involved and supportive of the company and their family member’s involvement.
• Have routine company and department meetings so staff know where the business is going and how you are doing.
• Create upward mobility and a career path for your staff. Offer them opportunities to grow personally and professionally through the company
Prediction #2: Inflation & Supply Chain Issues
The second macroeconomic influence in the restoration industry involves inflation and material availability. Supply chain issues combined with rising prices will continue to be a challenge. I expect this to moderate through the year, but it will impact our ability to complete jobs and also the price we are paying for everything from 2×4’s to insurance. These issues are being driven by reopening a shuttered economy, COVID workplace issues, reduction in the domestic energy production, massive government stimulus and incentives for people to not work. If you are properly updating your price lists then you may be able to stay ahead of rising costs for job-related items, but this does not typically address indirect items such as fuel and vehicles, and definitely does not address rising insurance, utilities or administrative labor.
• Diligently perform your pricing feedback and also update your pricelists routinely.
• Symbility is increasing market share in restoration and there is a good chance your business is not aware of how prices are determined or how they are influenced. Someone in your business needs to be aware of this process and take ownership of the numbers that are being utilized.
• I recommend you put an expiry date on all your estimates so they can be updated if needed to reflect the most current prices.
• Create and manage your budgets. If prices are increasing, then your production team needs to be very attentive to your project costs in order to meet budgets in a changing environment. You may also be able to supplement jobs where prices escalated unexpectedly (this is a discussion that needs to be with the adjuster and may or may not happen – but at least you can try.)
• Know the time for delivery of all special order and specialty items on your projects. Where applicable, order far in advance of needed time to maintain your production schedule.
• Communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure that the client and adjuster know the availability, lead time, and cost over-runs that may be, or are actually encountered. Too often the production department does not include others in these challenges which leads to service failures and job challenges.
• Manage your overhead. Understand that your cost of business is escalating. Set and manage a budget and review the actual to projected spend. If your costs are escalating, decide if you need to cut elsewhere or simply accept lower profits.
• Improve your estimating and assure you are capturing the maximum revenue.
• If fuel prices keep escalating, then you may consider fuel surcharges.
• Change your work mix to higher margin work, or even higher margin clients.
• I assume you will encounter higher taxes, user fees, tolls, penalties, and other expenses. These items are usually not able to be passed on. If this is the case, then you will need to watch your available cash and capital to assure you will be able to manage these “cash” costs.
Prediction #3: Continuation of M&A
The competitive landscape of restoration changed dramatically in the past year due to mergers and acquisitions. I expect this trend to continue over the next several years. I also expect to see at least two of the equity companies roll over their equity and either sell to new players or roll their portfolio into another equity-backed industry player.
• Even if you are not planning on selling your business, take steps to improve your business and make it saleable. This will provide opportunities, and more importantly, will make your business easier to run and more profitable.
• Don’t be complacent in your market. The competitive landscape in your market can change overnight if your competitors are purchased.
• Realize M&A trends are not exclusive to restoration. This is also occurring in property management, insurance brokers, and insurance companies – make sure you have strong diversity in your work sources since your top competitor could be purchased tomorrow.
Prediction #4: Evolution of Technology
The final trend that I will explore this year is the rapid development in technology. This process will take years to become fully integrated, but the first steps in radical change are starting now. This will include many activities from project management to jobsite tracking and will make a radical difference in operations. The first and very substantial example is using the metaverse to turn the real world into a digital replica, which is what happens with Matterport or DocuSketch. When the physical world has become digitized, then the functions of measurement, drawing, or even estimating will become automated. This process will allow an average estimator to be able to produce three to five times the estimates and become more accurate in the process. For the discussion of technology, I will list the technology to watch out for and some of the impacts, and then I will follow with recommendations.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning. This will impact everything from project management to client communications. Using this technology will have the same impact on production that the metaverse had on estimating.
Internet of Things and 5G technology. The combination of this technology will provide immediate jobsite communications to the office and insurance companies. This will also be used by the insurance companies and homeowners to limit or eliminate many causes of damage. Jobsite documentation will also help minimize the drying process and speed drying time as well as improve the job tracking information.
LIDAR technology (light detection and ranging). This process allows cameras and technology to measure distance and dimensioning and allows for safe autonomous driving technology.
Image recognition. This will help estimating technology identify structural scope items, equipment, and contents that are included in a photograph. Imagine your digital capture system completing the majority of a fire, contents, or drying estimate or billing – or being able to generate a pack-out or non-salvage list for a contents project.
The metaverse will transform training, site inspections, and the client experience. This is the process of digitizing objects in the real world. Imagine using virtual reality to train your technicians or even help the customer envision a remodeled or repaired home.
Blockchain will be used to verify data such as training or work history as well as connect buyers and service providers and improve collaboration on projects.
API (Application Programming Interface). This is the technology that will help our software programs interact. Currently, most of the restoration-based industry software exists in its own world and this requires managing many moving parts and entering data into different platforms. API will help tear down some of these walls and allow communication across platforms when the software companies comply.
Finally, all of this technology will increase the cyber risks in your business so make sure you have a plan and protection.
• Be deliberate and strategic. There will be a lot of technology failures through this process so do your
homework and choose wisely.
• The technology revolution is real and coming fast. Do your homework, create a nimble company, and look to leverage this technology.
• Have a cyber plan and protect your business from the many controllable cyber risks.
The last several years have been very unpredictable and challenging due to coronavirus, government influences, and global issues. It is most likely that this unpredictability will continue. Try not to get wrapped up in items you cannot control and focus on the items you can to impact your business, family, and community. It is often easy to run a business when times are good – uncertainty requires real leadership. Now is your time to stand out and show real leadership.