For much of April and May, small businesses suffered nationwide as stay-at-home orders forced non-essential operations to close their doors. Now that many parts of the country are starting to open back up, you may find that you're getting the green light to resume business as usual -- or as per the new normal. If you're gearing up to reopen, there are numerous financial and logistical considerations you'll need to account for. Here are three crucial steps to take as you plan to welcome customers in once again.
1. Implement safety and sanitizing procedures
It's certainly no secret that to open your business safely, you'll need to gear up to do things differently. That means limiting the number of people at your place of business at once, installing sanitizing stations, and doing regular deep cleans. It could also mean providing masks for customers to wear, and it should certainly mean providing masks and safety gear to the people who work for you. All of this is apt to cost money, so now may be the time to sit down and rethink your business's budget. You may need to make concessions in other areas to accommodate these new safety requirements, so the sooner you understand what financial investment you're looking at, the better.
2. Address your staffing needs
Between the vast number of Americans who are struggling financially due to COVID-19 and the fact that in-store capacity may need to be limited for quite some time, you may find that once you reopen, you don't necessarily need the same number of staff members you once did. As such, it could pay to temporarily downsize staff to preserve the cash your business probably needs -- though keep in mind that if you received a PPP loan, laying off staff could compromise your ability to get that loan forgiven. On the flipside, you may find that some of your staff can't return to work due to child care constraints, or even health-related concerns. Have an open line of communication with the people who work for you and prepare to make some changes on the scheduling front.
3. Be flexible with your business model
If there's one thing a lot of small business owners have learned from COVID-19, it's the importance of adapting. Many local establishments that were shut down in April and May quickly pivoted to online orders and delivery, and were able to stay afloat as a result. As you reopen, think about the evolving needs of your customers and aim to accommodate as best as you can. You might, for example, consider retaining your online ordering and delivery model, or continuing to offer curbside pickup for customers who are nervous to enter your store. Or, you might consider implementing "senior only" hours to allow our more vulnerable population access to your inventory with less concern. Solicit feedback from customers regularly as you reopen and act on it.
Though you may be eager to open your business after weeks of being closed down, it's important to do so carefully. Budget for the new expenses you might face, assess your staffing needs, and continue adapting to these turbulent times so your business can survive the pandemic, and perhaps even thrive during it.