On August 10, hurricane-force winds of over 100 mph tore across Iowa, leaving a wide swath of devastation behind. An estimated 14 million acres of crops were damaged, silos and other buildings were leveled and more than 400,000 Iowans lost power.
Iowa towns that bore the brunt of the storms included Charlotte, DeWitt, Knoxville, Marshalltown, Monticello, Newton and Tipton. With stores in all those communities, Spahn & Rose is working to ensure that residents and business will have ready access to the materials they need to repair and rebuild.
“The storms were a one-two punch,” says Spahn & Rose CEO Dave Davis. “With COVID-19, as a company, we changed how we do business to keep our customers and employees safe. Now, with the storms, we have another challenge to rise to.”
With 24 locations in three states, along with a General Office and distribution center, Spahn & Rose has had to constantly monitor and adapt to localities’ ongoing and changing COVID-19 requirements.
“We measure our success in dealing with COVID-19 by employee health,” Davis says. “We’ve had only two people out of 325 employees test positive during the past six months, so our procedures must be working pretty well.”
In March, to comply with state and Centers for Disease Control recommendations, Spahn & Rose closed store showrooms to customers, providing curbside pickup and no-touch delivery instead. Again following state and CDC guidance, Spahn & Rose locations have since reopened to customers, but the company continues to be vigilant about cleaning, social distancing and having employees wear masks.
“Procedures such as no-touch delivery and curbside pickup generate more work for employees, but they adapted well and were able to keep themselves and customers safe,” Davis says.
In addition, the company made several other adjustments, such as altering store hours and having some employees work remotely. Spahn & Rose also kept suppliers out of the lumberyards and rigorously managed who entered and left company facilities.
When Spahn & Rose learned that two employees had tested positive for the coronavirus, it was proactive, quickly hiring an outside cleaning company to thoroughly clean and disinfect the affected stores.
“As we continue to monitor and manage the response to the pandemic, we’re not going to overreact to the point where we’re put in an economic box,” Davis says. “We’re going to protect our employees and be rational about it. Employees know that there’s a good equilibrium where we’re making sensible decisions that won’t impair the company. We’re making decisions to protect employees’ health and their jobs.”
Maintaining a high level of customer service throughout these arduous times has also been a priority.
“One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic has been to maintain our strength of being a high-touch provider,” Davis says. “But COVID-19 may have changed the notion of high-touch forever. So we’ve adapted by being more accommodating electronically.”
Davis credits the company’s outside sales representatives with working harder than ever to help customers. “The outside salespeople have made sure contractors and builders can call in orders and have deliveries ready,” he says. “If Spahn & Rose keeps contractors happy, that’s invaluable.”
To keep the ordering process smooth during the pandemic, Spahn & Rose has helped vendors and customers navigate the company’s electronic invoice system.
Another big challenge Spahn & Rose has faced in recent months is ensuring a steady, reliable supply of lumber and building materials. In the spring, several mills closed and prices went down, but then demand turned out to be stronger than ever. Spahn & Rose’s dedicated lumber buyers were able to identify additional mills from which to purchase, and the company effectively leveraged its size to place orders.
“Our buyers aren’t taking no for an answer,” Davis says. “There have been times when we don’t have as much stock on the ground because we can’t get it.”