Dan and Elizabeth Lambert of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Lambert Tile and Stone in Eagle, Colo., share their experiences and struggles with work during the time of COVID-19.
2020 has definitely been a different year than we had planned for. We operate our tile installation business in the mountains of Colorado. We were one of the first counties in Colorado to go into a Stay at Home order in early March because some of the first cases of COVID-19 were traced to our international guests that came for the ski season in the Vail area. With that came the unknown on how our jobs would be affected.
Construction turned out to be an essential job in Colorado, so we were able to follow our county guidelines and have up to 10 people working on a job site. Luckily, we were on a new construction residential project and each of our employees could work in a separate area and have their own tools. There was no pressure by any builder to require anyone who felt comfortable to stay on the job. Schedules were thrown out the window. We had a few of our employees out sick, which of course caused us to worry about how we would pay the bills. When they returned, we started them out slowly on projects they could be on by themselves, or we had them do creative work like cleaning and inventorying our warehouse. We started to have a few jobs cancel not just because of the virus, but because of the fluctuation in the stock market. We did qualify for the PPP program which took away some of the stress of the unknown.
Another issue we had was finding masks and sanitation products for our employees to feel safe on the job site. This required calling everyone we knew and searching the Internet in order to find a few things here and there.
As a business owner, we had to think differently about the way we have operated for the last 20 years. We participated in multiple Zoom Meetings and webinars in order to use our down time to either educate ourselves or stay in contact with our manufacturers and distributors. We also learned about all the new tile lines coming up through Zoom and webinars since Coverings was not able to take place this year.
We also encountered a disruption in the tile supply chain. Tile from Italy was taking way longer than the normal 12-week lead time, which forced us to reselect tile on multiple jobs.
Our phones have actually been ringing off the hook this past month with homeowners who have been home for months and would now like to upgrade their bathrooms. In fact, Lambert Tile and Stone is currently looking for a high-end residential tile installer/employee to join our team in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. So, if anyone is thinking of relocating please send us an email. Our employees were sometimes spoiled on the jobs for homeowners — one homeowner made them some kind of homemade treat each day (we think our employees wanted that job to last forever). We have been fortunate that a few of our jobs are exterior installations, which made our employees feel more comfortable by working outdoors.
One positive thing we observed through the months is that everyone treated each other with more kindness and compassion. We are all in this together. Our silver lining was all the time we spent with immediate family, which forced us to look at our work/life balance and truly look around and see the amazing place we live and work, and to help those in our mountain community.