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How to Reopen Your Small Business Successfully

Business is slowly going back to normal in most parts of the world after the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are all still facing a lot of uncertainty. Business owners are continuing to have to make tough choices around how to keep their customers and staff members safe, while also keeping their businesses afloat.

Because business varies so broadly depending on what industry you are in, there is no single solution for all types of businesses. Your location, how big your premises is, and how much contact you have with your customers are all going to affect the viability of reopening safely, and the way you will need to think about doing that.

Additionally, rules and regulations are different in every jurisdiction and are changing all the time, so planning for the short term and the long-term is tricky. You need to think about your immediate plan, as well as how you can prevent future disruptions of this type.

Before you open 

Re-opening your business is likely not going to mean returning to business-as-usual. There are significant safety considerations that you will need to take into account, which may lead to significant changes in how your business operates, both during and long after the pandemic.

Before you reopen, the most important thing you need to do is educate everyone on your team about updated procedures and expectations. Provide all the resources you can, including videos, manuals, and socially distanced training sessions if you can. The goal is to ensure everyone on your team is as equipped as possible for re-entry into their roles.

An easy way to mitigate risk is to shift employees to remote work, which you may have already done to an extent. But when reopening, consider who in your team could work from home, or in socially distanced ways. Consider as well, how you can provide your customers with contact-free service. Grocery stores, for example, have started to provide contact-free pick-up in the parking lots of their premises, and although this is not doable for every business, there is likely a creative way to do business.

Another way to prepare for your businesses re-opening is to put in place symptom assessment testing for customers and staff members. Testing people’s temperatures, issuing health questionaries, or testing people periodically. You may also need to set up contact tracing measures if you have customers coming onto your location.

It might be a good idea at this stage to consider a multi-stage reopening plan that slowly allows your business to return to normal without friction. This may include creating risk categories for your employees and allowing younger workers without pre-existing health conditions to return to work at an earlier stage than higher-risk individuals.

Keeping your workers safe

Once you have reopened, and are allowing staff back onto your premises, you have a responsibility to keep them safe and healthy, and you need to consider the best ways to do that. It is imperative that you increase your cleaning and disinfectant measures and allow your employees to work in a socially distanced way.

You will also need to consider how they are getting to and from work. Public transport is not a particularly safe way to travel, but it may be the best option for workers. As a workplace, you have the power to prevent workers from having to take public transport, and everything from providing more staff parking, to allowing workers to adjust work times to avoid peak traffic, to subsiding trips in rideshare apps, can help keep your workers safe.

You will also need to consider how your workers use the workspace. For many small businesses, common spaces such as the kitchen are small spaces where social distancing is tricky. Implementing staggered lunchtimes or a one-in-one-out policy could be a way to maintain safety. Think through your workspace, and if you have any small or high-traffic areas, consider how you can change rules or workers' habits to minimize the risk.

If you cannot ensure social distancing at all times, you might want to consider making protective equipment. This is particularly important if your staff are customer-facing. Many businesses are currently requiring staff to wear face masks and encouraging or requiring customers to do the same.

Pivoting your business

One of the most-used words in 2020 was very likely: pivot. Every business has been forced to pivot, with the alternative often being closing. Some businesses have only had to make minor adjustments to their work, such as restaurants offering takeaway only, or health care providers conducting appointments online. Others have had to completely transform their business to continue to see any profit throughout this year. Regardless of which category you are in, there are a few steps you can take to identify how best to pivot your business:

  1. Focus on the most profitable part of your business: while you may be working with a reduced workforce, you need to make profit your priority. Think about your highest-profit service or product and make that the focus right now.
  2. Action ideas quicker: Investigating and analyzing ideas can take a lot of time and resources. Instead, put your idea to the test while it is in action.
  3. Identify the natural leaders in your team: There are leaders throughout your business, at every level, even those who do not currently occupy formal leadership roles. Identify those people and empower them, because they will be the people you can rely on to navigate your reopening strategy.
  4. Communicate with your customers: letting your customers know exactly what is going on with your business is powerful but asking them for their feedback and input is even more powerful. They can tell you exactly what is and is not working quickly.
  5. Talk to your suppliers and vendors: you need to know exactly what is going on around you to pivot your strategy in a way that makes sense. Find out about all the changes that the businesses you rely on have made and are planning to make to avoid any surprises.
  6. Get your team’s input: your workers know what is important to them, and what will help them feel safe and supported during this time. Ensure that they have a way to communicate their concerns anonymously or without fear of punishment. They may also have some wonderful ideas and insights into how your business can thrive, so use their expertise to your business’s advantage.
  7. Expect imperfection: everything business owners have faced this year has been unprecedented, and we all need to remember that moving forwards. Be kind to yourself and your staff members and expect that mistakes may happen. When they do, respond by communicating with your workers and customers about how you are rectifying things.

Integrating technologies

We cannot talk about pivoting your business without talking about technology. Technology has been the savior of countless businesses during this time, and the tools available right now are unlike anything we have seen before. There is a way for almost any business to use technology to help with their pivot.

  1. Embrace e-commerce: update your website and make sure you have great product listings and a frictionless way for people to buy what they want
  2. Use booking systems: to maintain distancing and keep your locations below capacity, you could introduce a booking system so people can make appointments instead of just coming in
  3. Give staff the tools to communicate digitally: use tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or other online tools to help make communication easy for your staff. Don’t rely on email alone, because just as it is when your employees are present in their workplace, emailing serves a very different purpose than more informal communication
  4. Keep your customers in the loop: mailing lists, social media platforms, and other digital communication tools are great for keeping customers informed about how your business is now operating, and how they can continue to support you
  5. Utilize the gig-economy: downsizing your workforce is heartbreaking, but it does present an opportunity to become nimbler in your business. Freelancers are skilled workers who are paid based on projects, so you can prioritize the most essential tasks.

In addition to using technology in your business practices, it will also benefit your marketing strategy. If you are not utilizing digital marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy right now, you need to start. Digital marketing is dirt-cheap, so you can continue to advertise even on a shoestring marketing budget. It is also dynamic, so you can adapt to changing rules and regulations quickly and get the message out. You also have the opportunity to build a community of supporters with whom you can share the human side of your business. This is more important than ever right now and will help your customers feel connected to you without normal interaction.

Funding

If your business has been forced to close or significantly scale back its operations, then chances are your profits have taken a significant hit. Unfortunately, it seems that the worst may not be over. In June, the US entered a recession, ending more than 10 years of economic growth. This may be the first time many small businesses have faced a recession, so it important now to explore every funding avenue.

If your business is in debt, it is likely that you may not be eligible for any further debt due to economic conditions. Debt financing is also likely to become less accessible even if you are not currently in debt, with banks tightening their lending criteria even further.

There are many grants that businesses can apply for through the state government, or independent organizations, to help with funding. You might also be able to defer your rent, electricity, or any other payments. If you can secure any of these options, they may help enormously and free up capital that you can use in your profit-producing activities.

You may also want to look into alternative funding during this time, which can provide essential financial resources when traditional funding will not. Some examples of alternative funding are:

  1. Crowdfunding: Money raised by receiving many small donations from individuals. There are many platforms where businesses are raising funds in this way, and since the money is given and not borrowed, it is a very attractive option for beloved local businesses who can effectively sell their plight to the community.
  2. Small business grants: funds gifted by a government department or private entity to help boost small business, or assist struggling businesses. There are a huge number of small business grants up for grabs right now, and every business should be exploring this option to see what they are eligible for.
  3. Non-bank loans: Very similar to a traditional loan, but with a private entity instead of a bank. Non-bank lenders often have lower overheads than traditional banks and are therefore able to lend to a larger variety of customers.
  4. Merchant cash advances: a lump-sum that is paid to a business in exchange for a percentage of all future credit or debit card transactions
  5. Asset-based financing: a small business loan requiring collateral, such as business inventory, equipment or balance sheet assets to secure the loan. This option is less risky for lenders which means they may become more available in the coming months as more and more businesses seek financing to recover.

Now is the time to not only explore possible financing options but to consider how you can make your business an attractive lending customer. Lenders currently will be looking for a different set of criteria now than they would have before 2020. There will likely be less emphasis on a company's credit score going forward, and more emphasis on your future capacity to pay back the loan, and your capital.

You can improve your capital by buying equipment instead of leasing, or by taking out insurance on your business assets to protect your existing assets in the event that you are unable to repay any loans. To improve your capacity, you will want to decrease your debt and increase your cash flow. These may not be actions that you can viably take right now, but they should play into your plans for the future.

Planning

No one knows what the future holds for business. We don’t know when the pandemic will end, and we don’t know when we will recover from the recession we have found ourselves in. This can make planning for the future of your business feel impossible. Even though it feels daunting, planning could not be more important right now for the future of your business.

In the short-term, this could look like securing funding, re-hiring employees part-time, purchasing your supplies, and letting your customers know that you are opening again, and what they can expect from you while your business capabilities are limited.

The next step is to create three business plans for the best case, baseline, and worst-case scenario. This may seem like a daunting and time-consuming task, but it will be critical to your business’s recovery. Thinking in detail about the best- and worst-case scenarios will give you a very good idea of where your business may be heading and how you can guard your business against the uncertainties of the future. It will also show investors, creditors, and customers that you are ready for whatever comes your way and that you have plans in place to survive and thrive no matter what.

When you are making your plans, consider a few specific possibilities. The first is that a second wave of COVID-19 sweeps the US and businesses face another round of shutdowns. The second is that another crisis in the near future causes the economy to plummet even further. These are both grim possibilities, but investors will gain great comfort from knowing that you are prepared for the very worst.

In each of your plans, you will need to consider what you are doing now and in the future to help prevent the worst-case scenario from being devastating. Put plans in place to build an emergency fund, plan how you are going to stay ahead of new technologies and implement them into your business, and what consumer trends you expect in the next year and beyond.

The uncertainty of the world right now, and of your business, can be mitigated by understanding what you’re up against, and by making a plan for every situation. Think carefully through what you need to do before you reopen, how you can keep your staff and your customers safe, how you can pivot your business and use technology to facilitate this, how you can secure funding, and how you can plan for your best- and worst-case scenarios, as well as your middle ground. With the right tools and the right plans in place, businesses can survive this year, and come out the other side stronger.

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The business funding you need when others say No!.

2569 Bay Pointe Dr.
Weston FL 33327

Email:
drew@southfloridafundinggroup.com 

786-544-2700

DISCLAIMER

 The operator of this website is NOT a lender, does not make offers for loans, and does not broker online loans to lenders or lender partners. Customers who arrive at www.SouthFloridaFundingGroup.com are matched with a lender or a lender partner, who offer business loan products or credit repair services.