This article was updated on April 26, 2021
Reopening Your Business: A Toolkit
As states across the country ease restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic, you may be thinking about your local business’s reopening game plan. While some of the changes you made to adapt your business strategy during COVID may remain in place, there is still an opportunity to bounce back even stronger. If you are a business owner looking to learn how to fully reopen after months of being closed or operating at a limited capacity, this reopening toolkit can help. From safety measures to social distancing guidelines, we’ll be covering all aspects of reopening a business during this complicated time.
1. Find accurate & timely information
Finding reliable sources for information can be challenging, particularly when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. Read carefully and rely on reputable sources and government agencies.
Here are some recommendations:Government Agencies
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- National Retail Federation
- National Restaurant Association
- National Association of Realtors
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- National Governors Association
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s State-by-State Business Reopening Guide
- California Small Business Relief Guide
- Connecticut Small Business Relief Guide
- Florida Small Business Relief Guide
- Georgia Small Business Relief Guide
- Illinois Small Business Relief Guide
- Louisiana Small Business Relief Guide
- Massachusetts Small Business Relief Guide
- Michigan Small Business Relief Guide
- New Jersey Small Business Relief Guide
- New York Small Business Relief Guide
- Pennsylvania Small Business Relief Guide
- Texas Small Business Relief Guide
- Washington Small Business Relief Guide
2. Review & manage your finances
If you're one of the millions of business owners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, you've probably already considered how you're going to restart your business during and after this crisis. Finding the money to do so has been challenging for many, but there are alternatives to the Paycheck Protection Program and Emergency Injury Disaster Loans, like emergency lines of credit. On top of that, filing your business taxes this year is different.
The importance of having a long-term emergency business plan has also become apparent for many business owners. If you didn't already have one, here's an emergency checklist tool to get you started.
Some of the financial options you may not have considered during the coronavirus pandemic are:
- How to negotiate your rent
- The best way to manage your business finances
- How to use crowdfunding to support your small business
As you plan ahead, some key issues to consider when deciding what the future of your business holds include:
- Your budget. As a local business owner, how much money do you have access to and how long will it last?
- Customer and staff safety. Is your business space large enough that you can provide for adequate social distancing?
- Your vendors. How is your supply chain looking right now? Is it necessary to find new ones to get you back up and running?
- Delivery of products and services. How can you make your business better prepared to meet customer needs right now? Are you sure you know what those needs are? Can you follow social distancing guidelines in order to reduce community spread?
3. Communicate with your customers
Knowing what your customers need is especially important right now and your marketing efforts should reflect that. If you haven't been maintaining relationships with your customers during this pandemic, now is a good time to check in. How are your regular customers faring? What can your business do to help them? It's a great way to spread some goodwill and keep your business top of mind as you prepare to fully reopen.
If you're not sure how to get started, evaluate what businesses similar to yours are doing. But don't stop there. Looking at a broad range of marketing and communication examples, including large companies, can better help you figure out what is and isn't working. In general, it's a good idea to avoid overly promotional messages.
Ernst & Young recommends companies follow these best practices when communicating with customers:
- Use multiple channels to ensure your message is widely received and reinforced.
- Demonstrate that customer interests are a priority and address their concerns directly.
- Create and share an FAQ document outlining specific questions around your supply chain, your health and safety practices, and potential risks to your customers if they continue to patronize your business.
- Reach out to affected customers and offer assistance where appropriate.
Reaching out to customers is a great way to remind your community that you're there for them. Consider emailing to let them know what you're doing to prevent COVID-19 from being spread in your establishment, and post a sign that says you are following business guidelines proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you haven’t yet done so, ramp up your online presence so you can serve your customers virtually and focus on communicating through social media channels. Joining Nextdoor can also be helpful for your business when it comes to connecting with your surrounding community and local customers.
Don't have a website or social media? No worries. These are some of the best free website builders out there. And here's a handy guide for engaging your customers on social media.
Here are some other small business resources to guide your customer communications:
- How to promote your business locally
- Social media tips for small businesses
- How to manage your online reputation
- How to write a crisis communication plan
4. Be sure you can comply with social distancing rules
Individual states, and even counties and cities, have established their own guidelines, so it's important to find out what those are. Depending on the type of business you operate, there may be industry-specific policies and recommendations from public health officials. If your state requires strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols, you'll want to be sure you and your staff can properly adhere to those.
It's also a good idea to review how technology can help you. Everything from shopping portals, virtual classes, and even virtual diagnostics can make serving customers easier. If you can't go completely virtual, consider things like curbside pickup, contactless delivery, queueing technology apps that summon customers when it's their turn in line, digital contracts, and even services by appointment only. Of course, where you operate will determine just what type of approach you'll need to take. Here's a straightforward guide for how to transition your company to meet customer demand during social distancing.
5. Take care of your team
Your team is the backbone of your company. Making sure they're safe and healthy is of utmost importance, and that includes keeping up morale during these tough times. Of course, that gets trickier if you've had to lay off or furlough your team. If that's the case, you may want to consider helping them with their unemployment benefits applications.
Above all, you need a communication plan. Your employees need to have easily accessible and accurate information about safety measures and other workplace changes. It's a good idea to make this information available through multiple channels - email, social media, your chat app, and physical displays in the workplace.
6. Make your workplace safe
Perhaps the most critical part of taking care of your employees is following CDC cleaning guidelines and ensuring your staff stays home if they aren't well. It may take a rethinking of day-to-day practices to ensure you're restricting shared items and spaces, that workstations are spaced adequately, or have physical barriers between them. Of course, training the entire staff in whatever safety actions you determine are necessary for your business to safely operate is equally as important.
Here are some further tips for keeping your workplace safe.
7. Understand how disaster legislation will affect you
In a pandemic, the biggest challenge for most small businesses is income. Issues with federal emergency funding have left many without the resources they need to keep their businesses going. As we said earlier, there are other options available for businesses and individuals alike. Check out this emergency loan guide by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and see this state-by-state breakdown of COVID-19 legislation compiled by the National Governors Association, for more helpful information.
8. Be prepared to close again
It's a good idea to be prepared to close if another outbreak occurs and have a plan for what that will look like. It's the worst-case scenario but it's better to be safe.
Also keep in mind that, no matter how prepared you are, reopening may be much more difficult than you expected. Be ready to pivot and do so swiftly.
9. Execute your plans
Once your planning and preparations are complete, it's time to put them into action. Here's a helpful guide for doing that:
Figure out your timing
Even if your state has completely opened for business, the CDC recommends you only consider reopening if your community does not need significant mitigation, you are in compliance with state and local orders, and you are able to protect at-risk employees and customers.
In order to make your reopening as smooth as possible:
- Be sure your staff is on board and make sure they're comfortable getting back to work, especially if they deal directly with customers.
- Make a list of pre-opening tasks like having your workplace deep cleaned, and adding any social distancing aids (tape lines on floors, signs explaining your mask and/or social distancing policies, providing hand sanitizer, etc.).
- Get your vendors back online. Make sure your supply chain is up and running and can get you what you need.
- Tell your customers you're reopening. If you've already been in contact with your customers or keeping them updated via social media or other channels, this should be quick and easy. Even if you don't have an exact date, letting them know it's coming is important
Continue talking to staff and customers
Regularly asking how your employees are doing during your first few weeks of being open can help them feel you really do have their health and safety top of mind. The same goes for your customers. Are they comfortable in your establishment? Do they feel safe? Would they like to see any changes or improvements? Be prepared to act on any negative feedback.
Track your analytics
Chances are your business isn't going to be at the same levels it was pre-closing, so be sure to keep an eye on your sales data and especially customer behavior. Also, track what customers are saying about you in public forums and reviews.
If you are a local business, claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. Resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers and pertinent news affecting businesses as the country reopens, are available in our Small Business Guide for Coronavirus Relief.
If you are a local business, claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. Resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers during coronavirus, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, are available in our Small Business Guide for Coronavirus Relief.