Home Improvement Crisis Taskforce Report (Volume 2)

Thought for Today

“At a time of high-level stress you may also be experiencing a great opportunity for intellectual and spiritual growth.” – Dr. Hans Selye

We are continuing to address questions from our most recent webinar where 1879 companies were registered. We apologize for the poor quality in sound. It had to do with the number of people on the program, and got better as it progressed.

Dozens of Participants in the Webinar Asked

Q: Can commissioned sales reps apply for unemployment compensation?

A: If they are W2 employees, they qualify. If you treat them as independent contractors or independent contractors under the special provision of Sec. 3508 of the tax code, they are issued a 1099 vs a W2 and to our knowledge they would not qualify.

We’ve asked attorney, D.S. Berenson to respond to this next question:

Q: What is the difference between a furlough, a layoff and a termination vs just firing someone? Are these different under the new laws?

A: A furlough is when you reduce your payroll costs without firings. For example, you have workers take unpaid leave or skip every Friday – – so you pay a worker only 32 hours instead of their normal 40 hours each week. A layoff is because there is not enough work, but you intend to bring the employee back when things improve. A termination or firing occurs when a person is eliminated without the intention of bringing them back. Employees under a termination or layoff usually can collect unemployment benefits. But, only a furloughed worker would be able to qualify for the Emergency FMLA Expansion Act or the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.

Q: How do we keep positive cash flow during this pandemic?

A: Beyond the current crisis conditions there are ongoing “best practices” for home improvement companies.

  • Ask for and expect to receive deposits on all contracts, even those being financed and progressive payments on cash jobs. For small “add-ons” or “change orders” collect for these at the time they are negotiated (signed for).
  • When preparing a contract use the phrase, “How much of a deposit can you place with this order?”
  • Remember, deposits are treated as “liabilities” in accrual accounting; therefore, any monies taken as a deposit are not subject to income and taxation until the job is completed.
  • Those of you who advance commissions to salespeople should look at your current work agreement. You may wish to modify it during this time of crisis. You might also want to have a “note” signed for any advances given. There are many other issues of capital conservation, which you could utilize. I suggest you get someone to do an analysis of your last full year operating statement and balance sheet and have them make recommendations for capital retention.
  • Some home improvement finance companies offer a plan, which enables “progressive payments” on large remodeling/home improvement contracts.

This next question was also directed to attorney D.S. Berenson:

Q: If my state has issued a shutdown order on non-essential businesses, what do I do about work in progress?

A: In almost all jurisdictions, we believe that the vast majority of our clients in the home improvement/remodeling industry are able to make a reasonable legal argument that they can remain open even during a shutdown order. Regardless of all else, W.I.P. (Work in Progress) should be completed if it poses any sort of danger to the safety of the homeowner or will cause economic damage if left unfinished.

Q: We have also received numerous requests for how to address homeowners and their concern for installing products on the exterior of their home during this crisis.

A: Here are some suggestions:

  • Reassure your customers that there is no “face to face” contact necessary with any of the installation crews. NOTE: There are different implications when dealing with work on the interior of their property.
  • Remove all scrap created by the installation at the end of each day.
  • Bag and remove any trash created by the install crew (pizza boxes, coffee or juice containers, etc.)
  • Crew leaders should use a cell phone to notify homeowners when the crew is arriving and departing the property. This should be a daily occurrence.
  • If you require a completion slip to be signed, have the install crew leader (using cell phone) notify the owner. Have latex gloves on when placing the slip on the owners stoop (requesting signature). Back off to 6 or more feet while waiting for the signature.
  • If a crew member has a specific need to enter the customer’s home, they should wear booties, a face mask and latex gloves. When the installation is of an interior product, i.e., HVAC, bath refitting, kitchen, or basement waterproofing, etc., we believe these services should be seen as a health priority and try to stress this when reasoning with the contract client.

Q: In the instance where you quote someone selling a revisit, they used the phrase “Instant factory rebate”.

A: It is not uncommon for medium to large companies who operate with a single product (i.e. roofing, siding, windows, etc.) to have arrangements with a manufacturer/supplier on pricing discounts when they buy over a certain amount annually. This rebate is often given to them in the form of “purchase credits” and is based on the amount (quantity or revenue). In this case, he was offering to convert that income to a reduction on the owner’s purchase price.

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