Some states announced their imminent plans to reopen over the next few days and weeks. Regardless of your political or personal position on this, there are real things to consider as a Service Provider, Restaurant, Entertainment, or Retail Owner/Executive. We don’t have all the answers, no one does. After polling our Fortune 500, 20+ years in the C-seat, reachXOD CxO Retail Advisors, we share their insights on things to consider when building your plans for reopening, whenever that may be. 

Prepare. Practice. Run your “plays”. Think through multiple scenarios. Get feedback. Re-evaluate. Would you go into a big game without studying your playbook? This is similar. Have a playbook for reopening. It helps.

Choose your team.

As our parents taught us, “Just because he is doing it, does not mean you need to do it too.”  This is an important lesson to take with us on the journey in deciding when to reopen during the COVID-19 crisis. The financial implications right now are dire for most businesses, and more so for the small business owner. We get it. It’s a complex issue. You are not a lemming, and the buck stops with you. Decide your point of view.

Some questions to consider if you are trying to decide, and you might want to read the entire playbook before deciding. Here are a few big questions you should be able to answer: 

  • Do you have multiple locations? Are they in different states? 
  • Are all the states where you are located doing the same things regarding reopening ? 
  • Have you polled your Customers and Employees in those locations to gauge their safety concerns? 
  • Would two more weeks of staying closed make that much of a difference?
  • What are your company’s Core Values, and how does this decision play into them? 
  • Do you have the ability to comply with the various operating requirements (see below)?
  • What do you think is the right thing to do right now? 

Know the rules.  

Have you researched the state’s and town’s guidelines/laws for re-opening for each of your locations? Does your state have them yet? If not, take a look at the State of Georgia’s guidelines about reopening.  For example, if you are a Barber Shop or Hair Salon, the guidelines actually come from the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers.However,, their guidelines really point to OSHA’s “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.”  Have you read those? Time to study the rule book and get your plays together.

Pick your game plays.

After studying up on each location, you need to plan the plays that will successfully enable you to operate each location. Keeping employees safe, serving customers safely, and being compliant with the new “rules” is not an easy task.  Consider the following, glaring obstacles you need to consider when picking your game plays:  

Play #1 – Testing. How will you staff appropriately to make sure you conduct touchless temperature tests for employees and customers BEFORE they enter your location?  How will your opening schedule be affected? What are you, or your staff, going to say to someone who has a “higher temperature” than is allowed? What if that person is your employee, and the only person on shift that day? Let’s face it, most establishments do not have a surplus of staff sitting around with nothing to do. 

Play #2 – Questioning. Who is going to be asking the 4 required questions to the customers before they enter your shop? How will they ask the questions without offending your customers? What will they say to that person if they tell you “yes” to any of those questions? What happens if the customer pushes back? How are you going to empathetically handle upset customers if you have to turn them away?

Play #3 - Traffic Control. How many total people can you have in your location at one time?  This isn’t as easy as it sounds. We have a formula for this which can be your starting point. How many people can be in the front of the house at one time? How many people can be in the X location at one time?  You need to figure out your “zones”.

Who is going to “run the floor” for you to make sure that no more than the allotted number of people can be in that part of your shop at one time?

Play #4 – Social Distancing in Locale. How are you going to “serve” your customer and maintain 6+ feet of separation at all times?  This will be particularly challenging for the barber, hair, nail locations. (Who can do hair from six feet away?)  And what if you are a restaurant, how will you serve food to someone who is six feet away? What if you need to bring clothes to a customer’s changing room? These are real challenges, and you need to answer them for your employees and your customers before the situations arise.

Play #5 - Personal Protection Gear (“PPE”). Do you have access to purchase the personal protective equipment that you need to run your business?  You have to wear masks, gloves, disposable capes, smocks, and face shields (at least in Georgia) at all times, so do your employees. Have you gained access to a supply of these such that you can reopen and stay open on an ongoing basis? 

Play #6 – Post-Game Quick Change. What location are you going to provide to your employees to change clothes before and after their shift? Have you considered that you need to pay your employees for the time it takes to complete these required actions (e.g. The State of Georgia’s OSHA guidelines require employees to change clothes before they leave their work location after shift)?  

Play #7 – Sanitization. Where are employees to dispose of the used PPE gear at the end of the day? How are you ensuring that location is sanitized and protected from others? Do you have the hand sanitizer that is required to be available to employees and clients at all times?  Do you have enough to get you through each week you are open? Have you built time into your daily opening schedule to sanitize all of the required items, each day?  Who will do this, and do you have that built into your payroll plan?

Play #8 - Hand Washing. Have you scheduled your shifts to enable adequate coverage for the required handwashing (20 second between each client, at least in Georgia)?  No one wants to upset customers by making them wait. Think through this one and adjust your schedules accordingly. Have you set up a process such that if cash is exchanged, your employee takes the required time to go wash their hands? 

Plan your practices.

Share your playbook with your employees, and train prior to reopening. Consider how you will empathetically lead them. Remember, your employees, most likely, are feeling the same level of uncertainty and trepidation as you are. 

Schedule the games.

It’s time to take another look at your opening hours, tasks listed above, and proposed employee schedule.  Do you have a reasonable schedule set up such that all of those new activities can be completed safely, and your customers are not going to get unnecessarily upset, thereby causing you to potentially lose customers (which no one can afford right now)? What do you need to do to adjust your schedules and payroll forecasts to accommodate these changes?

Coach your team.

Prepare your communication to your employees about what is reopening, when, and why.  If you decided to not follow reopening guidelines in certain areas and wait to reopen as one brand, you will still need to explain the “why” behind that decision to all employees.  The same goes for opening some of your locations in states that allow reopening, while other locations are still not allowed to reopen. It’s important to communicate one complete message, across the board, soall employees – active and furloughed, hear the plan. During this time of uncertainty, it’s better for leaders to provide their employees and customers more information rather than less. Strive for transparent, consistent communications.

Practice for “game time”.

Hold a training day(s) for your employees. Involving them in the process will allow them to take ownership and feel empowered in helping you get the business restarted. Prepare a Q&A for your employees to use as guidance for interacting with the customer. Try virtual role-playing together as a team, if possible. 

Huddle up.

Do daily check-ins with your staff prior to opening. Give them time to process with you their concerns. You want empowered employees who are honest about how they feel, and bring their concerns to you first, not others. Listen to them, take input and suggestions, and give positive feedback even for those actions you do not take when they recommend something to you. Keep in touch regularly with your furloughed employees so they feel part of the reopening plan.  

Review and improve.

Need insight or have other questions on the right steps to take to reopen? Imagine confidentiality chatting with a seasoned C-suite executive who you could share your gameplan with and get feedback in real time. It’s like having a three-time Super Bowl champion coach, by your side, as you prepare for the biggest game of your career.  Book a confidential, virtual hour  advisory session with our 20+ year, CxO Fortune 500 Retail Executive now. We are here as your sounding board for times such as this. You have serious, complex decisions to make over the next days and weeks ahead. Get the advice you need to be game ready. Don’t go it alone. 

Book your Playbook: Re-opening during COVID-19 advisement session NOW!