4.5-minute read (900 words)
As many states begin easing their stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic, entrepreneurs are preparing their businesses to reopen. But in many cases, that doesn’t just mean unlocking the door and welcoming people inside. Reopening requires significant planning and resources that every business should consider.
Before you open the door on the first day, take these steps into consideration to ensure you’ve thought of everything as part of your reopening plan.
Check Local, State, Federal Guidelines
Knowing when it’s time to reopen may not be as simple as hearing the governor declare that businesses can open their doors. Most states have phased reopening plans, allowing certain types of companies (such as construction or retail) to open in the first phase, with other types (like restaurants or salons) waiting a bit longer. In addition, municipalities and states have their own rules on occupancy, social distancing requirements, face coverings, sanitizing requirements and more.
If you’re having trouble figuring out which rules apply to your business, contact your local chamber of commerce for advice. They should be able to tell you the specific requirements of your area, and which federal rules also govern the responsibilities you have as a business owner.
Bonus tip: Once your business reopens, continue keeping an eye on these rules and regulations. It’s possible that new requirements might crop up and laws may change, so always stay on top of the regulations that guide what you must do to stay open.
Reach out to Employees
If you’re about to reopen, you probably need employees to come back to work, but that may not be as simple as it sounds. Some staff members may not want to return, others may want to but with limited hours, and still others could be sick or caring for someone who is. You should create a reopening plan with employee safety at top of mind, prioritizing what your staff members want to do and when they can return.
This is another area where laws might dictate what you can and cannot do. Some employees may cite the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in not wanting to come back to work, while others may point to local regulations that preclude them from working.
Evaluate Your Safety Standards
Depending on your line of work, you’ll need to institute safety guidelines at your workplace that could range from simple to complicated. If you’re the sole proprietor of a business that remotely handles IT issues, chances are that you never come into contact with any other people and therefore you only need to protect yourself. But if you are in a customer-facing environment or if you work with other people in the same office space, then safety will be paramount.
You’ll want to determine whether your staff members should be using personal protective equipment per the CDC’s recommendations, and you should be posting any new company policies that govern these decisions. For instance, if all employees must wash their hands upon entering the building, make sure that rule is posted everywhere for them to see. If you’re requiring customers to wear face coverings before entering your business, post that on the front door, on your website and on social media so they’re prepared before entering.
If you have to change the layout of your place of work, whether it’s an office environment or a storefront, now is the time to do that. You can move desks around, put tape on the floor to mark where customers should stand, put up glass partitions between employee desks or install whatever protection you need to keep everyone safe.
Check With Suppliers, Vendors
You may have one supplier that brings all of your products to you, or you might work with hundreds of vendors that produce your inventory. Either way, you’ll have to ensure that they are all still in business, operating and ready to provide your business with what it needs to continue operating. Not every third-party vendor will be in a position to operate as it did before the pandemic, and it’s up to you to find workarounds if that’s the case.
Once you know which vendors and suppliers are still able to support your business, check your inventory to make sure it’s adequate to start back up. Don’t just focus on the products and services you offered in the past — make sure there’s still a demand for those. If not, you may need to pivot your business model to provide customers with what they need in this new environment. In that case, find new suppliers or work with existing ones to ensure you’re ready to provide these new products or services.
Enlist Your Marketing Team
Once you’ve created a reopening plan, get the word out and ensure that everyone knows you’re about to be back in business. Place a note on your web page so everyone clearly sees your new hours and any updated guidelines on policies and procedures for entering your business. Share this information frequently on social media so your fans can see it, and ensure that you are available to answer any questions. Customers may be hesitant to come back into a place of business, but if you are clear about how seriously you’re taking safety, that should help ease their concerns.