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How to Reopen Your Business After a Shutdown – Four Important Steps

Businesses may shut their doors for any number of reasons, from natural disasters to public health crises to something as commonplace as construction. If you’re faced with an unexpected shutdown, one of the biggest challenges is figuring out how to reopen your business.

The difficulties businesses encounter in reopening are myriad and navigating them requires both foresight and the ability to adapt on the fly. Establishing a new normal with your employees, your customers, and your vendors requires consistent communication and an understanding that things might not be perfect. With a good team, the right mindset, and planning, however, you can successfully overcome these challenges and find your way back to success.

1. Create a Reopening Plan

Before you reopen, your first step is to create a plan. Evaluate how a shutdown has affected your business and what effects might carry over into your reopening.

First, consider the practicalities of who you have available and what they can do. Are your staff still able to make it into work?

If not, there may be roles within your business that you can transition to telecommuting. Are face-to-face meetings a necessity, or can you move to videoconferencing? Understanding your limitations and brainstorming solutions is essential before you reopen your doors.

Second, take a close look at your new situation’s potential impact on your customers. Is there anything you need to do differently to make them feel more comfortable?

If customers aren’t able to come inside your brick-and-mortar business, consider ways for them to phone in a request (to a team member at your location or someone working remotely). Think through how these accommodations might impact your workflows, too – some processes will take longer than you’re used to as you adjust to new requirements.

2. Size Up Your Budget

It’s no surprise that almost 40 percent of all businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Weathering an unexpected shutdown can damage any organization, especially those that depend on face-to-face interactions to make a sale. Without customers being able to show up at your location and spend money, your quarterly budget may suffer serious consequences.

Routinely evaluating your small business’s finances is always important, and an unexpected shutdown presents you with the opportunity to take stock. What things have the most dramatic impact on your earnings? Are there any operating costs you can reduce?

Is there a way to reopen on a smaller scale before you ramp up to a full reopening as conditions improve? What assets (like existing stock or equipment) do you already have on hand, and do any of them have a limited shelf life? Having an accurate picture of your finances is crucial if you’re going to navigate your reopening successfully.

3. Communicate Clearly

While the date that you reopen may be important to you, it might not stand out to your customers. Even if they’re aware that you’re closed, they may have already adjusted to a life without you. It’s important to let them know you’re back in business.

Many of the standard principles for communicating with your customers apply here, including making sure there’s a two-way channel of communication. When customers ask questions, you’ll need a way to respond quickly and easily. Address the basics of your reopening in your initial announcement (when you’re reopening, what your hours will be, how customers can access your business, etc.) with more detailed information available via a link or below the fold, then indicate how to reach out about anything you haven’t thought to include.

It’s also important to communicate with your employees and vendors about how they’ve been impacted by the recent crisis. Are employees still able to get to work? Are they under any new scheduling restrictions? Do they understand how things have changed and the expectations for moving forward?

For vendors, the same situation that affected your business may have affected their supply chain or capabilities post-crisis. Get this information as soon as possible, so you can prepare to make adjustments.

4. Be Ready to Adapt

While planning is critical to your success, it’s impossible to foresee every contingency. As your business reopens, be ready to adapt. Even if things don’t unfold as you expect, making a plan will help you hone in on your priorities and adjust accordingly.

Check in regularly with your employees in the early days of reopening. There likely will be some unanticipated snags or details you didn’t think about that have a big impact on your day-to-day operations. Catching those things early and doing everything you can to make their jobs easier will ensure that you can keep pace as business continues to pick up.

Most importantly, understand that you probably won’t get everything right on day one. Each day will present new challenges, so build flexibility into your plan, and empower your team to make judgment calls to adjust to the changing situation.

What You Can Do Right Now

Reopening your doors creates many new challenges for your business. What used to be easy may now require more time and resources, and customers and employees may still be recovering from the impact of the shutdown.

Planning is key, which means you need a clear map of what will be possible and when, including how you will adjust your budget to account for any changes. Stay ready to adjust, and you’ll successfully navigate your reopening.

  • Create a reopening plan for your team outlining what will be different and how it will affect them.
  • Get a clear financial picture of your business, and choose which indicators you’ll monitor as you continue to reopen.
  • Communicate with your customers, your team, and your vendors to set expectations.
  • Be ready to adjust to the changing situation.