This guide is to help businesses of all types and in all regions navigate the complex process of reopening and evolving post-coronavirus pandemic.
In the early months of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted wide-sweeping shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders across the United States. Now, as parts of the country look to start relaxing these strict measures, small business owners need to think about what's next and how they will adapt and move forward safely and sustainably.
COVID-19 has impacted every business differently. Some were able to shift to a remote work model, while others adjusted operations or closed their doors entirely. Factors that have impacted businesses' timelines and their abilities to resume "normal" operations include:
One thing is true across the board, though: Every business will face tremendous challenges as our nation begins the path to recovery, while still facing the public health threat of the virus.
When brick-and-mortar businesses are able to reopen their doors, consumers may be wary about being in an enclosed space with other individuals, regardless of the health and safety protocols in place. Even digital businesses that have remained fully operational may find it difficult to boost sales with so many customers facing lost or limited income.
The businesses that will survive and thrive are the ones that can be flexible and adaptable to consumers' new and evolving needs. You'll need to plan carefully and understand not only what may need to change about your business, but what new growth opportunities may exist for you in a post-pandemic world.
In this guide, we'll walk you through the steps your business will need to take to reopen as restrictions are lifted across the country. While your exact reopening strategy will depend on your home state and business type, you can use this playbook as a starting point to help you plan and prepare for the "new normal."
There's a lot of information out there about COVID-19, so you'll need to focus on the most reputable, reliable sources to find the right guidance for your business.
Government agencies and public health organizations are best places to find accurate, updated information for businesses that are looking to reopen. We've compiled a few key resources to help you get started.
Creating your reopening plan will require a lot of internal and external assessment of multiple factors that could impact your success moving forward. Here are a few important things you'll need to consider:
Throughout the pandemicions have been tasked with determining their own guidelines for stay-at-home orders and business closures. Some p have even delegated certain decisions to the county or city levels, which may make it difficult for businesses with multiple locations to create a company-wide reopening plan.
Depending on the type of establishment you operate, your province may develop industry-specific policies, based on best practices and recommendations from public health officials. For instance, your city may mandate strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols, as well as require employees and customers to wear face coverings in your location and also in your industry.
By understanding your obligations under your province's regulations, as well as the generally accepted guidelines for your industry, you will be able to craft a reopening plan that instills trust and confidence among the individuals who interact with your company.
As a business owner, your primary concern should be the health and safety of your employees and customers. All places of business, including shops, restaurants, construction sites and offices, must take precautions to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 on-premises.
Here are some considerations as you develop your new safety policies in the post-coronavirus workplace:
Once you've determined the new precautions and protocols your business will need to follow, it's time to consider your operational needs. From limited funding to supply chain disruptions, you may encounter a few challenges as you seek to ramp up your core business activities.
Ask yourself the following questions to help you get a better picture of what you might need to get things moving again:
The biggest obstacle most businesses are facing as they plan to reopen is financing. Even businesses that have remained partially open during the crisis have likely seen a hit to their revenue, and many now need help covering basic expenses like rent and utilities before they can ramp back up.
Look at your numbers and figure out the bare minimum you need to get things going again. Then, consider provincial aid resources like the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) program and Small Business Support.
If you're one of the many businesses that had to lay off or furlough employees during the crisis, you may not be able to bring them all back at their full capacity right away. Consider whether you can offer limited hours to the majority of your pre-pandemic staff, or whether it makes more sense to have a few key individuals on for their regular hours, while slowly re-expanding your employee base as business picks up again.
As a small business, your staff will be a critical part of your recovery, so it's important to let them know you will take their safety seriously when you reopen. Clearly communicate all plans and policies you develop regarding PPE and employee health monitoring and take the time to answer any questions and concerns from your staff.
Your customers' lives have all been impacted by COVID-19, and they may need different things from your business right now. Their disposable income is likely limited right now, so get creative and think of how you can help solve the challenges they're facing at this point in time. This may be as simple as changing your marketing messaging, but some businesses may need to reposition or update their core offerings to fill the needs of their market. Either way, Salesforce recommends rapidly innovating your products and services to better meet immediate customer needs.
The reality is that most businesses will not simply be able to "pick up where they left off" when they reopen their doors. Based on your current available resources and potential funding sources through coronavirus aid programs, make a thorough, honest assessment of what might be feasible for your business in the following areas:
Your business will likely need to communicate plans to several different audiences, and each one requires a tailored approach to ensure the right message is received.
As part of your post-COVID-19 communications, you'll need to set clear and accurate expectations with those who interact with your business. Your employees, customers and vendors will need to know what to expect from you as you execute your reopening plan.
Follow these tips to communicate with your business's various stakeholders throughout the process:
As the people who help you serve your customers, your employees need to be kept in the loop about your business's reopening plan. According to Cushman & Wakefield, your employee communication plan should provide thorough, accurate information about physical workplace changes and safety measures, as well as set appropriate expectations for following new procedures. Use multiple communication channels (email, chat, video, social media, physical displays in the workplace, etc.) and invite any questions they may have after you share your plan.
A few important things to address:
During these difficult times, customers understand and expect that your business will be operating differently. However, they still expect transparency and timely updates as you establish a path forward. EY advised companies to follow these best practices when communicating with customers:
Take time to meet with each of your vendors and partners to review your agreements and contracts. If you plan to continue working together as your business reopens, let them know what (if anything) might need to change about your working relationship, and whether it's possible to adjust your arrangement. Salesforce recommends co-creating business continuity plans with your partners and suppliers to help both of you streamline operations.
Regardless of your audience, make sure your message to each is consistent and clear across every touchpoint and channel.