The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, but many small non-essential businesses that were shuttered during lockdowns are still finding the process of reopening a daunting task. Regardless of location or size, every business owner needs a thorough reopening plan that addresses health policies, staffing, inventory, and customer communications. Here are seven things to consider for the best chance to reopen successfully.
Decide Where You Stand
First, decide whether it makes the most sense for your business to follow state and local health guidelines or initiate more stringent ones for employees and customers. These may include requiring masks, temperature checks, or proof of vaccination for employment or admittance. Considerations for branding, client base, community profile, and current local infection rates may be factors in this decision. Keep in mind that you’ll need additional staff and equipment to enforce stricter rules.
Plan for Compliance with Health Policies and Guidelines
At a minimum, review current state, county, and city pandemic restrictions and make changes to your physical space and operations for compliance. Major considerations should include:
- Prominent displays of entry requirements near the entrance, on the company website, and social media pages
- Signage directing customer movements through the building or space for optimal social distancing
- Ensuring that occupancy limits are not exceeded (both building code and pandemic capacity limits)
- Stocking adequate and surplus personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees (and customers as appropriate)
- Training employees in contact-minimizing protocols tailored to your space and operations. Consider processing orders and payments via website, phone, or QR codes rather than through walk-in orders, cash, or bank cards
- Frequent sanitization of surfaces and use of air purifiers, open doors/windows, or upgraded ventilation systems
Plan for Changes in Staffing and Schedules
It may be necessary to reduce the number of staff members physically present in your building due to occupancy restrictions, budget concerns, employee vaccination policy, customer demand, or all of the above. Allow employees to do remote work where possible, communicate staffing strategies, and anticipate seasonal fluctuations in staffing needs.
Streamline Your Inventory or Menu
Consider reducing inventory or menu options. Keep your top-selling items, ensuring they remain consistent with their pre-pandemic state where possible; in chaotic times, customers want to feel they can rely on favorite standbys. Eliminate products or services that don’t sell as well, require significant extra cost or effort, or create waste for your bottom line (or the environment). You won’t be alone, as many larger businesses are doing the same. Alternatively, consider collaborating with other small businesses to share costs and profits while offering something new for customers to appreciate.
Communication Is Key
Customers know there will be pandemic-related changes to what your business offers and how it operates—but they won’t want to spend time hunting down that information. Communicating these changes in intuitive, convenient places (your entrance signs, website, and social media pages) will make a big difference in whether patrons choose your business or a competitor who communicated to let customers know what to expect.
For example, restaurant patrons will want to know in advance whether you offer amenities like heated or sheltered outdoor seating, curbside pickup, online ordering, and more, so signpost this clearly in every medium you can.
Plan Your Reopening Budget
Although it’s never a pleasant task, it’s essential to evaluate the pandemic-related losses already incurred as well as the upcoming costs of operating with new protocols in place. Then, consider strategies that will not only keep the lights on but help your business thrive.
Increasing the price of products and services is a commonly accepted place to start, but it’s also good to be creative. For example, if you don’t have a website, make good use of (free) social media pages or streaming sites like YouTube to post information and engage with customers. Conserve utilities where possible; consider becoming a member of a local wholesale store to save on the cost of PPE and other supplies.
Apply for Pandemic Relief Funding
Find out what kinds of financial pandemic relief you may be eligible for and take time to pursue them. You may be surprised at how many “open secret” resources there are for small businesses. These include:
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans
- Shuttered Venue Operator Grant
- Employer tax/leave credits for pandemic illness and vaccine
- Employee Retention Credit
- Bank loan deferment for business loans
Apply for Small Business Loans from a Mission-Driven Lender
If you’re operating a business in an underserved area or represent a demographic historically excluded by the financial mainstream, you may face more obstacles in procuring a loan than other small businesses. If that’s the case, consider seeking assistance from a mission-driven financial organization tailored to your needs.
For example, Connect2Capital helps small business owners who may have difficulty procuring funding from mainstream lenders connect with mission-driven lenders that offer affordable financing. Ready to learn more? Visit the Connect2Capital site and complete this inquiry form to start the matching process between small business owners and lenders.