Back to Business – A Step by Step Guide to Reopen Your Small Business

How to Reopen Your Small Business

Are you preparing to reopen your small business after an unforeseen closure? After a crisis, many entrepreneurs aim to rebuild and remobilize as soon as possible. However, moving beyond your disaster plan into recovery mode requires a purposeful strategy.

Flipping your closed sign to open without considering the financial, safety, and logistical aspects may do greater harm than if you remained closed until you are better prepared.

Relaunch your business using this small business reopening checklist. Each step helps you make informed decisions, so your comeback delivers the results you expect and your business needs after a closure.

1. Conduct a Post-Crisis Assessment

Reopening your small business after an emergency must balance and mitigate future risks. A post-crisis evaluation is critical to moving forward. It supplies insights about your response and expectations. Going through various outcomes, identifying new threats, and adjusting your plan prepares you for inevitable disruptions. Moreover, an updated risk assessment identifies key areas of focus.

Although accountability is essential during your evaluation, avoid blaming others, including employees, for breakdowns in the response. Instead, ask for honest feedback and work together to develop suitable solutions. Appraise your actions, then figure out which areas to work on as you move forward.

Evaluate Your Emergency Response

Some tactics work. Others don’t. Dive into the “why” behind both the good and the bad of your emergency response. Perhaps your teams struggled to adapt to remote work, or customers didn’t realize you were closed, or couldn’t communicate with your business. Look for ways to improve your processes to support operations and customer experiences in the future.

Identify the Hazards of Reopening

Completing a new risk assessment allows you to see all potential threats and develop solutions before reopening. Look for possible problems, like hazards from ongoing repairs or construction or health risks. Examine each part of your business and detect issues with:

  • Business location safety and security
  • Financial vulnerability
  • Cybersecurity
  • Reputation concerns

Consider Threat Likelihood and Consequences

If you just faced a sewer line break or a tornado, you certainly hope it won’t happen again. Yet, it’s best to prepare for many scenarios and know where to bolster your efforts. Going through an emergency provides unique insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your company. Use this to your advantage to estimate and reduce future threats.

Mitigate Future Business Disruptions

Your assessment uses tactics for risk avoidance, control, and transfer. For example, preventative actions like putting important documents in the cloud ensure access during a disaster, whereas transferring data backups to a third party guarantees you have the latest information at your fingertips even if your storefront isn’t open for business.

2. Invest in Essential Tools and Resources

A business closure tightens your budget. However, tools and resources improve operational efficiency and productivity. The bottom line is that the right technology supports your company by providing a smooth transition to recovery. First, assess current tools and services. Next, look for innovative ways to keep your business running during and after a crisis. For example:

3. Explore Regulatory Updates for Continued Compliance

It’s easy to get caught up in your reopening plans while managing day-to-day operations. Yet, government and regulatory guidance may change during and after a crisis. Before opening your doors, check industry resources and government guidelines to ensure your next steps align with the latest regulations.

Rely on Documented Best Practices

Disaster-related changes may impact your finances, reopening procedures, and policies for customers and staff. Get the newest information by referring to small business resources such as:

Talk to Local Leaders and Organizations

Reach out to your Chamber of Commerce, business groups, and other local resources. Doing so may save you time researching online or waiting for responses from larger agencies. In many cases, local officials can point you in the right direction and possibly give you a direct line or contact name.

4. Assess the Financial Impact to Reopen

After a crisis, the Institute for Business and Home Safety estimates that 25% of businesses never reopen their doors. That’s because even with business interruption insurance and disaster aid, a shutdown impacts finances, workforce availability, supplies, and much more.

During your closure, you may have requested assistance from your lender, vendors, or applied for other programs. Before reopening your business, it’s a good idea to review your finances and make new projections.

How to Determine Your Financial Readiness to Reopen

Along with reviewing losses, you need to know the costs associated with the reopening. Plus, you need extra cash to survive another potential shutdown or emergency. Take the following steps to ensure you have the funds to keep your doors open.

  • Give equal attention to payables, receivables, and inventory to understand how your balance sheet changed and what to expect in the coming months.
  • Compare numbers and anticipate shifts to your sales, operating costs, and payroll. It’s critical to make sure you’ll be able to pay your utilities and staff, even if sales don’t meet your projections.
  • Reconsider capital investment plans. Prioritize upgrades that give you a competitive advantage or provide a safer environment and perhaps leave unnecessary improvements until another year.
  • Take note of the cash you have on hand. Look at how much money it’ll cost to reopen your business, including extra expenses for inventory or disaster loan payments. You should be able to meet the bare minimum to get running again.
  • Stay abreast of any aid available to your area due to the disaster and recovery efforts. Consider resources like emergency loans and tax credits to improve your bottom line and keep you afloat.

Adjust Pricing and Budget as Needed

Whether it’s been a week or months, it’s best to complete a break-even analysis before opening your doors. Think about using temporary and permanent increases to retain a stable profit margin. Once your local economy stabilizes, then you may reduce prices as needed.

For example, restaurants saw meat expenses grow dramatically during the pandemic. Hurricanes also cause temporary food price spikes. Other economic issues, such as a rise in oil prices, inflate shipping and food costs. To avoid losses, business owners go through each inventory item and adjust their pricing structure accordingly.

5. Review Your Workplace Readiness to Reopen

A safe reopening strategy is crucial to the health of staff, customers, and your reputation. Your workplace readiness assessment identifies areas where improvements are needed before opening. Make a list of actions required to comply with local regulations and reduce future disruptions, such as:

  • Updating or adding signs inside and outside of your location
  • Changing the physical setup to improve safety during disaster repairs or a health crisis
  • Improving processes or investing in new technology to assist with a safe reopen

The final step in preparing your workplace is to update your business continuity plan, disaster recovery strategy, and emergency communication forms. Document ways to stay connected and in business, even if you’re required to shut down your storefront after reopening temporarily.

6. Examine Customers’ Needs and Concerns

Consumer habits and buying patterns can change after a crisis. For instance, a customer’s priorities may shift as they handle rebuilding efforts and encounter financial hurdles. To stay relevant, you may need to adjust your product offerings and communication style.

Get involved in your community online and locally. Ask questions, send out a survey, and listen to what folks say on social media. Compare your results to customer sentiment before the emergency. Use your new data to find ways to engage clients and encourage them to return to your store.

7. Revise Your Customer Communication Plan

A transparent and empathetic communication model increases brand loyalty and protects your reputation. Build stronger relationships and help customers feel safe by tweaking your messaging. Avoid overly promotional advertising. Instead, focus on supporting your clients while adding value.

  • Use a variety of channels to communicate, such as social media, email, and a popup on your website.
  • Answer questions via social channels, messaging apps, and phones quickly and kindly.
  • Take note of frequently asked questions and create an FAQ page on your website.
  • Give special consideration to those affected by a local crisis and, when possible, offer to help.

8. Reach Out to Vendors

Depending on the emergency, your vendors may be affected as well. Before reopening, it’s vital to connect and coordinate with suppliers. Have an honest conversation about product lead times and shipping delays. Then assess your inventory and make changes as needed. Consider:

  • Adding vendors from different regions
  • Purchasing hard-to-get supplies in bulk
  • Selecting alternatives if certain products go out of stock
  • Having a backup plan for supplies, vendors, and receiving processes

9. Communicate With Staff

Successful recovery after a disaster or pandemic relies on reliable communications with staff and customers. Obtain buy-in from your team by explaining the changes you’ve made, reasoning, and how it affects personnel and clients. Encourage staff to share ideas as you all work towards the shared goal of reopening.

Share Updated Policies and Procedures

Get staff on board by conveying policy changes and new protocols before opening your doors. Host a meeting with management or supervisors as they’ll help explain and field questions from employees. Then roll out new procedures. Give staff time to adjust and ask questions.  Change is hard, so help teams adapt by providing context and ironing out challenges behind the scenes.

Ask for Employee Feedback

Although it’s vital to think about everything before rolling out changes, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be flexible. Provide stability and security by inviting input through a variety of communication channels, including email, virtual software, or allowing staff to schedule meetings with supervisors or business owners for a private conversation.

Provide Extra Resources

There’s a good chance that the crisis also affected your employees’ lives. When possible, provide extra resources to help team members adjust and cope. For instance, during the pandemic, companies offered additional wellness programs, assistance hotlines, and in some cases, an increase in pay.

As a small business owner, your best resource is yourself. Share information gathered during your reopening research, ask team members to voice concerns and connect staff with other community resources.

10. Develop a Relaunch Marketing Strategy

Don’t just open your doors and expect to hit your sales goals. Instead, develop a consistent and robust marketing strategy that addresses current needs while acknowledging the challenges your customers face. Create a reopening campaign that showcases your business and gets everyone in your community involved.

Assess your Competition

Look at how your competitors are responding to the crisis. Are they trying out new advertising avenues, cutting back in other areas, or promoting different services? How are their customers responding? Read through their social channels to get an idea of what’s working for them and what isn’t.

Rethink Your Messaging

The images, copy, and overall presentation of past campaigns may not fit current circumstances. Come up with new promotions that support your customer’s varying emotions and situations while staying sensitive to those confronting new difficulties. Adjust your marketing promotions by:

  • Sharing your recovery progress using Instagram Stories
  • Creating a freebie that addresses the current conditions and provides extra value to customers
  • Updating your website with reopening information while improving SEO efforts for local reach
  • Doing Facebook or Instagram Live sessions to answer questions and build excitement.

Discover the Best Ways to Connect

Look over analytics from websites, social channels, and customer service. During your business closure, your customers may have reached out in new or different ways. Ramp up in the areas with the most traffic and use these platforms to roll out your reopening campaign. Consider offering fresh ways to connect like:

  • Having conversations in Facebook messenger
  • Texting updates about your reopening to clients
  • Offering face-to-face meetings remotely using FaceTime or Zoom
  • Using a survey to ask how your clients want to communicate

Provide Reassurance, Not Just a Sales Push

A crisis impacts people in different ways. By reaching out to customers and developing long term relationships with those in your community, you’re setting your business up for increased sales when times improve. Although you want to reopen with a bang, it’s vital to support customers and avoid marketing ploys. Deliver thoughtful messages and position your small business as a reputable industry leader.

11. Create a Reopen Checklist

Get back on track and cover your bases by creating a list of everything you need to do before, during, and after reopening. Head to the drawing board with your managers or other support team members to devise a plan of action. Prioritize responsibilities, add deadlines, and delegate work. For example:

Sketch out your anticipated schedule. Select a date for reopening, even if it’s an estimate. Consider possible changes to your hours of business for customers or employees. Decide how you’ll adjust your schedule to account for construction, repairs, or another unexpected closure.

Develop a pre-opening task list. Go through your business and determine what you need to check before inviting customers and staff back. Plan on testing everything at least a week before opening to iron out any problems, replace or repair broken items, and prepare for opening day.

Buy supplies and products. Securing inventory is critical to a successful reopening. Plus, you may need new items to support safe operations. Go through your stock and order supplies. If you face delays, consider opening at a later date.

12. Reassess, Adjust, and Adapt

Relaunching your business requires resilience and flexibility. While you aim for a smooth transition, you may undergo new challenges. Stay on top of your efforts by monitoring your reopening experience and how it impacts staff and customers. Small business owners may:

  • Set up alerts to review key performance indicators for in-house and online traffic.
  • Schedule an employee meeting after resuming operations to address any concerns and gather feedback.
  • Gather input from customers regarding changes or needs.

Don’t forget to monitor social media and your community’s response to your reopening. Avoid huge problems by recognizing issues early on. Acknowledge those who call out your business online. Respond appropriately and quickly to your customer while making changes, so it doesn’t happen again.

Reopen Your Small Business With a Roadmap for Success

Building your company back up after closure isn’t easy. For small business owners, juggling all of the duties is a real challenge. Add in the fact that finances are tight, and you may feel pulled in many directions. However, your reopening strategy gives you a clear path to your goals.

Visualize getting back to business by collecting data and making informed decisions at every step. By focusing on communication, involving staff and customers, and being flexible, you’ll reopen your doors with a community behind you.