This is a complicated time in our history.
Many of us are experiencing mixed emotions. We’re eager to return to some sense of normalcy and to revisit the places, activities and traditions in which we find comfort. At the same time, we’re also coming to terms with the realization that life, and business as we knew it just a few weeks ago, may not quite be the same. As we work to accept the idea that a “new normal” is on the horizon, here’s a checklist to help business owners prepare for the next transition:
• Do you have a clear understanding of what will be permitted and restricted in the new phase? If you answered no, you’re not alone. There is a plethora of information to absorb right now, and finding accurate information can be challenging. The best place to find details on and social restrictions is on Pennsylvania’s website. The governor’s administration has developed a plan for reopening in phases based on conditions in a county or region. While restrictions vary among phases, one requirement that remains consistent is the directive for everyone to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines. For details on each phase, visit https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/gov-wolf-reopening-targeted-for-may-8-in-north-central-northwest/.
• Have you surveyed your customers? Maintaining open communication with your client, even if your business isn’t fully operational right now, is critical as we transition into the yellow and green phases of reopening. Conducting a survey will help you assess their needs and preferences so you can plan for the future. You’ll be able to gauge your clients’ comfort level with in-person business interactions. Or, you may discover that focusing on ecommerce is the best way to increase revenue. Make the most of online tools such as SurveyMonkey or Google Forms to gather and assess data quickly and efficiently.
• Do you need to modify your business plan (again)? It’s uncertain how long our region will remain in the yellow phase, so it may be wise to modify your business plan. Many business owners have already done this to comply with health and safety regulations during the red phase. Whether your business has been closed since mid-March, or you’ve operated under a revised business model, now is a good time to assess how to implement or enhance your operation. For retailers, this may mean reinventing how we shop. Will you offer personalized shopping by appointment only? Will you provide curbside and delivery services? Should you develop or enhance an ecommerce site? For restaurateurs, it may be time to brainstorm with your team to find ways to improve your curbside and delivery services, or develop unique promotions.
• Who is on your team? If you have furloughed employees, how many will return to work? If you’re implementing a new business model, will you need to also change the size of your staff? To provide a safe environment for your customers, you may need to add team members. Consider who needs to be on your team and how you can make that happen.
• What training does my team need? To ensure that you adhere to best practices in your industry, consider what kind of training and professional development your team will need. It’s critical that your staff and your customers feel safe and comfortable in your place of business. That’s where proper training enters the picture. Be sure your staff understands the importance of social distancing and how to implement sanitation and safety requirements appropriate to your industry. Be sure your customers are aware of the steps you take to create a safe and healthy environment for them as well.
• Do I need to modify the physical space? Consider if you need to install hand sanitizing stations, Plexiglass shields, create more spacious work stations, or reconfigure shopping and dining areas to accommodate social distancing. Do you need to develop signage to accompany these changes?
•Who should I consult with before reopening? Every business is different, but in general, it’s a good idea to consult with your insurance broker and financial adviser before reopening. Professionals in the food and beverage industry may also want to consult with representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to ensure your business meets the legal requirements for health and safety when you reopen.
Leslie Collins is executive director of Scranton Tomorrow, a community non-profit group.