The COVID-19 lockdown has been a difficult period for everyone. Small businesses have been hit, especially hard. If you are among the many business owners who had to shut down for a couple of months, you may now be getting ready to open again. In these uncertain times, it’s crucial to come up with a reopening strategy that keeps everyone safe, and that also gives you a chance to get your business running again.
Initial Steps to Prepare for Reopening
The steps you take to protect your employees and customers depend on your location and the type of business you have. For example, if your business deals directly with retail customers, you’ll have different concerns than a business that fulfills e-commerce sales or provides digital services. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind.
- Monitor the latest news and guidelines. Although states are starting to loosen stay-at-home orders, the future is far from certain. In some states, businesses are opening up in phases. There is also the possibility that stricter measures will return if COVID-19 cases begin to spike again. Therefore, it is important that you stay current with the latest guidelines from the CDC as well as your state and local governments.
- Consider the policies you need to keep everyone safe. For a retail store, you may need to rearrange the layout, create one-way aisles, and limit the number of customers who may enter at one time.
- Post clear guidelines for entering your place of business. Depending on local laws, you may need to require that everyone wear a mask to enter your business.
Take Care of Your Employees
Keeping your employees safe and healthy is also one of your priorities as a business owner. In addition to following official and common-sense guidelines, here are some ways to protect your employees.
- If possible, continue to let employees work from home. Flexible work hours and working at home arrangements were already a growing trend before COVID-19. While not possible for many businesses, if you can accommodate it or a modified version of it for your type for your business, consider making it an ongoing policy.
- Conduct wellness checks. Taking employees’ temperatures is a good way to monitor health. Encourage employees to report any symptoms that may indicate the onset of an illness.
- Limit the number of employees at work at any given time. Make sure there’s adequate space between workers, which may involve moving desks or workstations further apart. You may also have to stagger shifts to reduce the number of employees at work at any given time.
- Be ready to implement COVID testing. In the near future, businesses may be required to test all employees. So now is a good time to research your options for testing.
Reintroduce Your Business to Your Customers
The last few months have been confusing and stressful for everyone. Your customers’ routines have been disrupted as they were forced to develop new habits and rituals. Now that they’ve learned to survive without you, it’s up to you to get them to re-establish their old habits.
- Provide accurate information on your website, including your re-opening date, hours, and any social distancing requirements. Be sure to update your policies as needed.
- Be flexible. Understand that some of your customers may need time to acclimate to returning to their previous routines. For example, if you provided special services such as home delivery or takeout options, you may want to continue to offer these options for a while.
- Offer incentives, such as sales and special promotions. Encourage your customers to come back by tempting them with special offers. This can also attract new customers, of course.
Make Use of Stickers and Signs
For front-facing businesses, stickers and signs provide helpful visual reminders to practice safe social distancing. You can also use these to inform customers of other rules that may be in place, such as wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, or limiting the number of people in your store at a time.
Signs are also important for alerting the public that you’re open. As businesses reopen at different times, people may be unclear about your reopening date. If you have been closed for a while or have had varying hours, you want to make it as clear as possible when you open. A prominent sign saying, “Yes, we’re open!” lets everyone know.
As long as you’re going to be hanging signs and perhaps stickers and banners, use them for branding as well as for communicating information. Rather than simply using generic signs, you can brand your signs with your logo and using the colors, fonts, and layout that your brand typically employs. This shows professionalism and gives you additional opportunities to display your branding.
Financial Survival Tips
The vast majority of businesses were financially impacted by the COVID-19 situation. You will need to be resourceful and creative to come back from this challenge. Here are some ways to help accelerate your recovery.
- Research any grants or business loans for which you may be eligible. The SBA, for example, is offering loans to small businesses.
- Promote your reopening far and wide. In addition to prominent signs, consider submitting press releases to local media so your reopening may be mentioned in news stories. Placing flyers on bulletin boards can also help.
- Reduce your expenses. You may need to cut back on unnecessary expenditures. Re-evaluate any recurring costs that aren’t essential for running your business.
- Negotiate with vendors and suppliers. As many businesses are struggling, companies may be willing to talk to you about pricing, payment plans, or extending credit.
Prepare for a Gradual Return to Normal
Don’t expect everything to return to normal at once, especially if your business is in a city that is reopening in phases. Even once everything is open, health organizations and governments will be monitoring the situation to make sure the second wave of COVID doesn’t strike. In such an unusual case, it’s impossible to predict the future. However, business owners can do their best to stay alert and do everything they can to protect their employees and customers. If you need promotional products for your business, please go ahead and contact us.