2020 will be remembered as the year most people would like to forget. The COVID-19 pandemic forced people to take shelter in their homes, while businesses and schools closed and unemployment rose to levels not seen since the Great Depression.
The year started off promising. The economy was humming, unemployment was low and Wall Street was happy. At Welty Building Construction, we were making plans to celebrate our 75th anniversary, saluting our long history with a gathering of more than 10.
I’ve heard those words spoken by business owners time and again. “We had our best year ever lined up and then the pandemic hit.” There is no question the virus has forced incredibly tough times on us all. And there will be winners and losers. But like many other companies, we’ve been through tough times before, and we’ve learned from them. We’ve learned that grit, creativity and entrepreneurism are keys to surviving tough times. Diversifying helps, too.
Though we are best known as a construction management company, over the years we have creatively pivoted into related areas that enable us to offer enhanced services to our customers. And during times like these, those related services have helped us fill in revenue gaps caused by projects that have been delayed by the virus.
For example, we like to think that we’ve always built great buildings, but we realized we could do more to help customers plan, complete and “activate” their facilities. So we created environments 4 business (e4b), a subsidiary that provides turnkey solutions, furniture acquisition and move-in needs, specializing in complete project management from order development to completion.
As a developer and builder, we also realized that clients in both the public and private sectors could use help with their development efforts. Today, our inSite Advisory Group helps clients get projects under way by assisting them with managing their site selection, funding and economic development needs.
Project management and LEAN construction techniques have always been strengths, and we were able to apply our expertise in those areas to help a key client in the energy business cut costs and improve timelines, while at the same time creating new revenue that help us withstand temporary losses in other areas.
Certainly, we wouldn’t have reached our diamond anniversary without the help, support and partnership of key customers, subcontractors and public officials, as well as the hard work of hundreds of dedicated employees over the years. But when I hear someone say, “And then this hit,” I think about the grit, creativity and entrepreneurship that have enabled us to overcome the many challenges we have faced during our first 75 years.
I’m hopeful that those same characteristics will enable us to overcome the challenges of 2020, as well.
Don Taylor is president and CEO of Welty Building Co. Ltd.