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Are You Ready to Reopen Your Business

By Mary Jean Vignone on May 18, 2020

Are You Ready to Reopen Your Business?

Who could have predicted that we will be sheltering in place when you set your 2020 business goals back in January? Here we are almost a full three months with stores, restaurants, and business closed, and millions of people on unemployment. It's hard to believe that we find ourselves wondering about the next steps to reopen our businesses. Now is the time to think about business readiness.

Moving from shutdowns of many businesses, especially those in the retail sector, to reopening, you need to have a business readiness approach to continue to be ready for change. We talk about the new normal, but the reality is that the new normal is constantly changing.  So, I call it the next new normal. There will be little time between the next new normal and next to normal after that.

I use acronym LEAD, to help you with the complexities of readying your business for reopening.

Leadership is about how you lead during the reopening.

Environment in which you lead- regulations, restrictions, and community health.

Assessment of your business model and what is needed to retool your business

Discernment, your ability to know and do the right things for your employees.

Leadership

You are the leader, and you need to embrace your role and responsibilities fully. As a leader, you must set a clear vision, even if it is a vision for the next few days, weeks, or months. Clearly articulate the vision to your employees and listen carefully to their ideas. Seek to ignite their creativity to find solutions to the challenges you may encounter.

During the reopening of your business, your emotional intelligence will make a difference in connecting with your employees, customers, and community.  We are living in uncertain times, and not knowing the next twist this virus will present.  Self-awareness is paramount to your success. Be aware of your emotions and how you react to them. Self and impulse control will help to acknowledge your emotions and how you modify your response.

Another aspect of emotional intelligence that will serve you well during the current situation is empathy. This crisis has affected all of us but in different ways. People experienced food insecurities worries about paying rent and mortgage, family dysfunctions, isolation, and loneliness, to mention only a few of a wide range of stressors. We don't know how the sheltering at home created stress and strain on us in ways we never know before.  Show empathy by leading with an open heart accompanied by a cool head.

Environment

Think about where your business is located and the current environment.  First, you need to be familiar with what the state and local governments and public health officials are mandating or recommending, such as masks, gloves, take out, pick up at the door, and social distancing. 

Plan out how you will meet the requirements and list out what you need to do or buy to comply with the requirements.

Most states publish guidelines on their websites with the requirements needed to reopen businesses. Cities and counties may also have more restrictive regulations pending on how the virus is spreading. Follow the statistics on the increases in COVID0-19 cases, hospitalizations, and the number of deaths as increases or decreases in the stats will cause changes to existing regulations.

Assessment

Just because you can reopen doesn't mean your customers will immediately show up at your door.  Surveys show that  63% of Americans are concerned with reopening the economy too soon.  It is time to assess your entire business to ensure you are ready to reopen.

Your customers may have a new awareness of their personal space even after social distancing is not as followed as closely as now. Health will play a more critical part of our lives. People may strive to eat the right foods and be selective about where they have their meals.

Financial security will be top of mind for many people. Consumers may postpone large ticket items to conserve and save money for the future.  There will be changes in consumer's purchase choices due to the financial impact on so many people around the world.

Take a critical look at your products and services that you offered before the pandemic with this new information.  Through this lens, how will you retool your business? Will you provide the full product or service line during the first phase of reopening, or will you limit your offerings based on customer needs and your inventory and supplies? Many restaurants took this approach by limiting their takeout menu to be more efficient with food preparation. Check to see if this strategy works for your business as well.

Pull out your business plan and make the necessary changes. Now is the time to create a business plan if you don't already have one. Develop a marketing plan to drive customers back to your business.

Discernment

The definition of Discernment, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary, is to "the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscureskill in discerning" meaning, showing insight and understanding. When it comes to your employees, it is imperative to use your leadership insights and understand how others think and feel

Now is the time for you to be authentic and share how the COVID-19 impacted you and your family. Use your emotional intelligence's strength of empathy and compassion in their situations. Have open and honest personal conversations with your employees. Allow them to express any negative emotions and increase their feelings of being in control. Invite them to be part of the planning process and encourage innovation even if just for small incremental improvements.

The number one concern of employees is their health and that of their families.   Your responsibility as a leader is to provide safeguards for employees' health. You will need to pay attention to the virus statistics of your community and giving protection to protect their well-being.

Set clear expectations about how they will contribute to the health of your company. Show them how their contributions are essential to the business, the people they serve, and the community. Be sure to keep the open communication going beyond the first few weeks. Most importantly, recognize them for their efforts, especially when they went above and beyond expectations. Recognition does not have to be monetary. Use your creativity to come up with a way to acknowledge and appreciate them individually.