The current health crisis has created a feeling of whiplash for thousands of business owners across the U.S. Some quickly sought to reopen business, but a resurgence in the crisis meant many had to slow or stop, operations again.
No matter your individual business situation, if you’re set on staying open long term, it’s time to develop plans to keep the doors open as effectively and consistently as possible. However, this will mean navigating some challenges and possibly rethinking how your company operates, especially early on. Keep the following strategies in mind.
1. Get creative with limitations to reopen business
As states stop and start reopening over the course of the coming months, businesses will face limitations. Flexibility and creativity will be vital when getting your business started or restarted.
Before you begin envisioning your soft opening, check your state’s regulations. Certain activities, like allowing staff to return to stores to fulfill orders, or permitting limited numbers of customers within the building, might be allowed. But those activities might also be paired with restrictions and requirements that you’ll need to follow. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s reopening guidance makes it easy to access your state’s timelines and reopening information.
Once you know your state’s requirements, have a brainstorming session with your leadership staff to create a plan that lets you follow those requirements. Be sure to check your state’s website frequently or sign up for email updates and alerts so that you’re aware if conditions change.
2. Define your vision to reopen business
When it’s time to start or restart operating again, your business might look vastly different than it did before the health crisis. You may need to offer limited services or products to save money, or it may be wise to pivot and restructure your company significantly. Reassess your business with the current economic climate and your local customers in mind.
As you develop a vision for your business, you may need to write a new business plan. You’ll rely on that new plan for guidance as you plan your reopening and your business’ development afterward.
3. Openly communicate with employees when you reopen business
While you might not yet have a definite date for your soft open, you’ll still need to communicate openly – and frequently – with your employees. If your team members have been laid off, it’s time to check in with them and describe, as best as you can, what you can offer them in terms of hours, positions and pay. Ask your workers both now and closer to your launch if they are planning on returning to their jobs.
Be prepared to learn that some employees might be unable or unready to return to work. Some might not yet feel safe, while others may be facing new challenges of having to care for children who are out of school. Workers who receive lower pay might have been making more on unemployment because of the $600 per week federal unemployment add-on. That may or may not continue on into the future. Be prepared to act quickly to fill staff vacancies.
4. Do a social distancing check as you reopen business
Depending on your business, one of the most significant challenges in preparing for a reopening may be implementing social distancing. This is the time to start designing your business practices with social distancing measures in mind. Making some changes can help to keep your customers and staff safer:
- Consider whether staff can continue to work from home.
- Implement barriers and restructuring now, so you have time to adjust and redesign.
- Think about how you’ll handle challenging areas like bathrooms and hallways.
- Develop a sanitation plan and consider whether staff can or should wear protective equipment.
5. Check in with vendors
Your business may be ready to open, but your vendors may not yet be back in operation. Determine the items, sizes and dates of each order that you’ll need as you ramp up again. Then, contact your vendors to confirm that they’ll be able to fill your current and future orders.
Don’t forget about the new items that you’ll need, like personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer. Your current vendors may be able to supply these items, or you may need to get resourceful in identifying new vendors for these and other needs. If your soft opening supply needs are too small to meet your vendors’ required minimum order sizes, connect with other local businesses to see if you can go in on an order together. This strategy can help to keep your out-of-pocket costs down while allowing you to still take advantage of the lower bulk purchase pricing.
6. Start building publicity
While minimizing costs is essential, work to retain your marketing and publicity budget. Building awareness around your reopening efforts can be vital to its success, but that will take time and resources. Start developing a marketing and publicity plan now so that you and your customers know your timeline for reopening and are ready when it happens.
7. Be flexible
We’re in unprecedented times, and even with detailed planning and work ahead of time, you’ll probably still face unforeseen challenges as you reopen. You’ll need to be flexible and ready to adjust as situations change and challenges arise. Approach your company with this in mind and encourage your employees to adopt this same mindset as you negotiate the changing landscape of running your business during the crisis.
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