Comment – Missed opportunities of COVID crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown forced change upon us all. Top-end restaurants were forced to offer DIY meal kits that allowed customers to enjoy restaurant-quality food from the comfort (and safety) of their own homes while keeping the restaurant coffers topped up. Gyms and leisure centres embraced online technology to allow them to deliver exercise classes to those stuck at home.

Just last week, I spoke to a UK manufacturer of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) that had used the lockdown to perfect the design of a new electric-powered machine. That switch was timely. When I spoke to them, just one of the dozens of machines currently in production featured a traditional diesel engine.

And here at Demolition News Towers, with our printer forced into lockdown and our former advertising team suddenly struck down with delusions of grandeur, we switched – at least in part – from the written word to the spoken word; swapping magazines for video and audio shows.

But when the UK demolition industry was “gifted” key worker status that allowed it to work through the pandemic, it was simultaneously robbed of an opportunity to re-evaluate, refocus and – potentially – to diversify.

Oh sure, many demolition companies embraced remote working. Many switched from face-to-face to video-based meetings. They took on board government advice on social distancing and amended both working practices and the way in which their demolition crews travelled to and from work.

However, while many other industry sectors were afforded the opportunity to pursue new opportunities, demolition companies were left figuring out how to do precisely what they have always done whilst protecting their workforce from potential COVID infection.

It was and it is a missed opportunity. Demolition companies have always been quick to spot an opportunity; to embrace change; and to exploit new ways in which to bolster the bottom line. Diversification – planned or otherwise – is in the very DNA of demolition contractors. Show me a demolition company that does nothing but demolition, and I’ll show you a company that will struggle to survive.

The COVID-19 pandemic afforded us all a (hopefully) unique opportunity to take a step back; to take a deep breath; and to look at our respective businesses in the cold light of day, quite possibly for the first time. It also afforded clients that same opportunity.

Some demolition firms seized that opportunity. Sadly, many others allowed that once in a lifetime opportunity to pass them by.

It is understandable. The pandemic may have taken men and women out of demolition, but you can’t take the demolition out of those men and women. There is comfort in tradition, and to sticking to what you know. But there is weakness too. Tradition for the sake of tradition is simply a failure to move with the times. That failure is endemic in the demolition business. It is what separates the good from the great and from the failing.

There was a time when the term “we’ve always done it this way” demonstrated experience, conveyed knowledge and confidence in hard-earned expertise. Today, that same term speaks to intransigence, to a lack of flexibility, and to an unwillingness to meet the needs of modern clients. It is riding a Penny Farthing in the age of the Tesla; it is wax-sealed letters in the age of email; it is bows and arrows in the age of nuclear weapons.

There is a reason why we no longer ride Penny Farthings; why we no longer rely upon hand-delivered and wax-sealed communications; and why we no longer fight wars with bows, arrows and pointy sticks. Each of these was surpassed and superseded; each was replaced multiple times by something more efficient and better in every conceivable way.

You might want to think about that when you’re next tempted to speak of your tradition.