Small businesses were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. From mandatory closures to the expense of reimagining the workplace, small businesses faced many hurdles this year. While the ability to reopen is a blessing, it can bring additional hurdles if not done properly. Here are some things to consider when reopening your small business.
- Reassurance will be crucial. Your staff and customers need to know that they are safe in your environment. While physical clues like barriers and distance markers help, open and honest communication is more important. Keep your staff in the loop as to what measures you are taking to keep them safe. In addition, customers need to feel safe and secure that they will not be at risk in your environment. Tell them what you are doing. Post signs, have announcements, and show videos demonstrating the importance of their safety. Paradise can create a custom video for you that can provide information to customers on the measures you are taking to keep them safe.
- Rethink employee roles or job descriptions and have difficult discussions before reopening. Many small businesses were forced to lay off staff or downsize because of the pandemic. This may mean new duties or additional responsibilities for returning staff. Have these conversations with staff before they return. Discuss with them why the changes were made and get their feedback. Although these are rarely pleasant conversations, removing the element of surprise makes them much easier to accept. Let us help you update job descriptions and employee roles.
- Rethink telecommuting on a longer-term basis. By now, small business owners know how well telecommuting or working from home fared for their business. If possible, determine if some positions can remain home-based, especially for employees who show the same work ethic as they did in the workplace. If duties can be performed successfully at home, why bring them back into the workplace?
- Focus on the safety and health of your employees and customers. Put your personal beliefs aside. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic in America, like many other issues, became political. Many people feel like the pandemic is overblown and masks and social distancing are unnecessary, while others believe that they are necessary for health and safety. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, remember that your business is open to the general public. Even if you don’t believe in wearing masks, your clientele or staff may not feel the same way. If you don’t demonstrate that you are concerned with their safety, they may not choose to support your business. Reopening your small business is not political, so don’t hurt your efforts by injecting politics into it.
- Understand that there will be an adjustment period. Too many people are so anxious for things to go back to “normal.” However, the coronavirus is going to be with us for a while, so we have to determine a new normal. As with most change, this will not be a quick or easy process. People deal with change differently, and this will be no exception. Some staff will be be upset, disappointed, depressed, etc. understand that these are normal feelings and shouldn’t be ignored or discounted. There’s a lot going on right now, and people have a lot to deal with. Just because your business is open again does not mean that everything will now be sunshine and lollipops. Everyone will need to determine new routines, and some things aren’t going to work out like planned. Encourage staff and customers to let you know how they’re doing, what their thoughts are and how they think you should move forward. Even if it’s not a viable suggestion, just asking and being willing to listen go a long way towards building confidence.
The key theme is communication. Now is not the time to remain tight lipped. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now, and people want answers and communication. Good news or bad news keep your staff and customers in the loop and seek their feedback and opinions. Remember that reopening your small business is simply one small step on the road to a new reality. Be open and transparent in your communication and work with your staff and customers to develop new systems to keep your business viable and sustainable.