How to Plan to Reopen Your Small Business in 2021

Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, the effects on small business in America have been grim. Fifty three percent of business owners don’t expect to return to pre-Covid operations for at least three months. However, as the vaccination rate increases, more and more business owners are taking the baby steps to get back on track.

Luckily, as the country adapts to the “new normal” and local governments loosen up restrictions, more and more business owners are taking the baby steps to get back on track. Here are ways you can transition back to full (or partial) operations.

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Focus on your employees

As the coronavirus continues, your staff needs reassurance that they will return to a safe environment. Here are strategies to ensure you meet that goal:

Get them excited about the future

This pandemic will not be forever. Your company will soon get back on track. And it will grow, with their help. Recognize your employees’ valuable contribution. Show them where your company is headed and what their new role will be in shaping that future.

Support employees emotionally

Being laid off or furloughed can be traumatic for most employees. Just as you want to prepare them for the new normal by offering support, you should also “fire-up” and motivate them to overcome the emotional impact of COVID-19 and become more optimistic about the future. Help them connect with authorities that offer mental health support, such as the Department of Mental Health.

Show empathy and understanding

After several months of getting stuck in their homes, your employees will need time to adjust. It can be challenging for them at first. But with your support, empathy, and understanding, they will become more efficient at work. Whenever possible, offer one-on-ones and check-ins with your staff.

Recognize their efforts

A tap on the shoulder, a shout-out on your company email or bulletin board, or directly telling them they did a good job, can boost employee morale and get them through a difficult day.

Keep them connected

As some of your employees can’t be at the office for certain periods, you need to devise a way to keep them connected and still get support as they work from home. This may include investing in some collaborative software or scheduling virtual check-ins.

Attract customers

Of course you want to bring back former customers and attract new clientele. Here are easy ways to reach your goals.

Highlight the “Buy Local” popularity. Distinguish yourself from large competitors. Chances are, your business not only pays employees, but you also spend money at other local businesses. So when your customers buy local, they help create jobs for your friends and neighbors, contribute to improved public infrastructure, and invest in your community both socially and economically.

For example, Small Business Saturday, held the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the U.S., has exploded in popularity. Consumers are now starting to understand the importance of supporting small businesses to help improve the economy. Be sure to participate in this special shopping day and look for other opportunities to promote your small business.

Activate your social media channels. If your company had to shut down or let employees go, you might have let your social media messaging lapse. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Yelp are common first stops for consumers checking in on business shut-downs, revised hours, etc.

Freshen up your channels with new photos or images and put an editorial calendar in place so you post regularly. But don’t just post and leave. Look for opportunities to engage with customers, answer questions, or resolve any issues. If you run into problems, check out How to Respond to Negative Reviews on the SmartBiz Blog.

Embrace new technologies. Part of getting customers to return includes using new technologies to interact with them. For example, to limit the number of people in workspaces, some businesses are using new online tools so appointments can be made in advance. Other businesses have put video chat in place to accommodate people that aren’t comfortable with in-person interactions yet.

Practice flexibility. Now is a good time to remind yourself that flexibility is often important to success. You may need to design new customer experiences and ways you engage with them. You might need to add – or discontinue – products or services. You team may still be learning to work in the new normal so practice flexibility when working to reach business goals.

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Emphasize customer safety

Use social media channels, website copy and/or images, and email or newsletters to show your customers that you care about their well-being. Switching to an online operation, putting safety measures in place, and putting mask and social distancing protocols in place.

Develop a cleaning policy

As part of your health and safety protocols, you will need a more thorough and strict approach to keeping your business premises clean.

According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), your plan should be based on the following:

  • Routine cleaning of floors, objects, and surfaces with soap and water. The WHO identifies it as the best method to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.
  • Disinfection using EPA-approved cleaning products. Ensure proper ventilation during and after application.
  • In case the listed cleaning products are not available, using a bleach-water solution is to disinfect objects and surfaces. Dilute 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of room temperature water, or follow the dilution steps provided on the packaging.
  • Moving or completely removing items to reduce frequent handling or contact from multiple people.
  • Determining areas that need to be cleaned or disinfected. Outdoor areas require normal cleaning and do not need disinfecting. Additionally, cleaning products must be stored properly, and diluted cleaning solutions labeled accordingly.
  • Those in charge of cleaning your business premises should take proper precautions when handling disinfectants as they can be dangerous to one’s health.

Innovate

Virtually every industry has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Many businesses have closed their doors while many more people have lost their jobs. The pandemic is far from over, but things may never go back to the way they were even after the last case is reported.

Businesses should adjust to the new normal and take steps to innovate their practices and processes to survive the pandemic. Customer service, communication, employee management, and marketing are some areas every business should work on to cope with any crisis of this scale.

For additional actionable information, visit the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: How to Innovate Your Small Business during and after COVID-19.

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