Surviving in a construction zone
This information is designed to assist businesses that may be impacted by construction works being undertaken by a third party, including those of state and local government agencies.
Construction works near your business could bring a range of challenges such as:
- losing customers as people avoid the area
- limited access and loss of parking for your customers and staff
- disruptions to deliveries
- noise and dust
- power interruptions
- changes in public transport routes.
Take a proactive approach
Before work even starts there are steps you can take to help protect your business.
- Be aware of exactly what work is planned.
- Actively plan for the disruption and its potential impact on the local area and your business.
- Speak to one of our small business advisers who can offer you independent, practical advice to help during this challenging time.
Most construction projects fall into three key phases:
Download our fact sheet to guide you through what to consider during each stage of construction.
1. Planning/pre-construction – before work begins
Some steps to consider during this planning phase include:
Major construction work is usually planned years in advance. Look out for communications from your local government and major utility and infrastructure providers (eg. METRONET, Water Corporation, Main Roads) to stay informed.
Actions to take:
- Visit their websites and social media channels, sign up for stakeholder emails and read the flyers and bulletins delivered to you.
- Join local business Facebook groups.
- Staying up-to-date is particularly important if you don’t live near your business and may be less aware of local plans.
Have your say
Once you know work is planned, find out about community consultation opportunities. Consultation periods are the best time to provide feedback and to try to influence change. Express your concerns and suggestions early and respectfully. Note that plans can change, so it’s important to attend any further information sessions.
If you’re approached by a government works agency, or one of their contractors, participate in their surveys. They really want to know what you think and whether there are key times or events in your area (such as an annual street fair) which would be significantly affected by the planned work.
Contact other businesses likely to be affected by the project to form a support group and work together to keep customers coming to the area once work starts.
Communicate early and often
In this lead-up period think about communicating with your customers, suppliers and staff. Consider the main messages you will need to communicate at each stage – ‘yes we’re still open’ or ‘parking is available around the corner’.
Review your financial position
We recommend you work with your accountant to understand the likely impact of the proposed construction on your financial position. If sales drop during the construction period how will you manage your cash flow reduction?
You can also talk with your landlord and check your lease for options to renegotiate if possible. Check out our range of financial management information and tools.
Actions to take:
- Review inventory, look at reducing stock during the construction phase.
- Explore opportunities to keep a tighter control on cash flow, such as invoicing earlier and/or paying suppliers later.
- Check your lease for options to renegotiate if the market rent review date falls near or during the project.
- Ask suppliers to review your line of credit, or whether they would provide a special product promotion during the construction period.
- Check for opportunities to restructure any business loans. Securing a line of credit before it’s required can also be a good idea.
- Construction generates dust, so factor in additional time and costs for extra cleaning of the inside and outside of your business.
- The construction period may be a good time to undertake your own renovations, or for your staff to take annual leave or work part-time. If they leave, consider keeping the position vacant until business picks up.
Plan your operations
Depending on the nature of the construction project, can you consider operating at different times of the day or days of the week when your business is less likely to be affected by the works? Receiving supplies or making deliveries may need to be rescheduled.
Also, your gas, electricity, water and internet supply could be disrupted, so plan for scheduled and unscheduled outages.
Actions to take:
- Look for new revenue generating opportunities by introducing an online service, or working with businesses outside the construction zone to stock your products. Consider offering deliveries or a kerbside collection service – perhaps turn your restaurant into a catering service.
- ‘Flip’ your business by using the back entrance for better customer access – with plenty of signage. It may work even better if other businesses also face the other way.
- If customer parking will be affected, make arrangements with other businesses further down the street to share their space. Offer to return the favour once construction moves in their direction (it could also highlight your business to potential new customers).
Consider your staff
They will understandably be concerned about general disruption to the business, loss of parking or job security, so keep them advised at every stage.
2. Construction – once work is underway
This will be the most disruptive phase for you and your business and there are likely to be a variety of issues that could deter customers:
- dust, noise and vibrations
- restricted access as a result of closed roads or footpaths
- fewer parking spaces
- interruptions to public transport
- temporary fencing or construction vehicles preventing customers being able to see your business.
What to do during construction
Now that work is underway you can review the plans you made pre-construction and put them into action.
If you need to demonstrate a loss of business during the construction period, it is important to keep accurate financial records. Document costs, impact on profits and customer numbers.
Boost your communications
Continue to communication with:
- your customers
- construction project managers
- other local business
Regularly update your website, social media and any other communication tools (ie customer newsletter) to keep your stakeholders informed.
It’s important to take control of your communications. If you don’t provide information, people will turn to local TV or radio news, newspapers or online sources. Unfortunately negative headlines work, so stories about your area will focus on the catastrophic – ‘There’s no parking!’ ‘All businesses are closing!’
Actions to take:
- Regularly update your website, social media channels and voicemail to ensure your messaging and contact details are consistent across all platforms.
- Have plenty of signage. The head contractor is responsible for providing safety and main directional signage, however it’s also good to display your own posters.
Construction workers as customers
Stay in touch with the project or site manager to keep up with what’s happening and as a way to promote your business to their workers. They may be visiting your area for the first time and could be potential customers.
Actions to take:
- Offer specials for ‘hi-vis’ customers:
- open early for tradie breakfasts
- advertise value lunches and dinner takeaway deals
- promote seasonal specials – last minute flowers for Valentine’s Day/Easter chocolate etc.
- provide added-values, such as a free head massage with every haircut
- be flexible, such as ‘Drop your car in for a service/new tyres (we open extra early) and collect it when work’s over’.
- Even if they don’t need your services immediately, encourage them later by offering great deals on car servicing for example.
- While construction workers aren’t the people to raise concerns with, it’s good to develop a friendly rapport (perhaps turning them into customers). Think about how you can appeal to this potential new customer base, whether that’s a special offer or competition to draw people into the area and encourage them to spend.
Hopefully your business has survived in reasonable shape. However customers may be slow to return to the area.
Actively reconnect and communicate with your customers to let them know the work is over. Update your website and social media and consider local advertising if possible.