How to Plan to Reopen Your Small Business

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused many small businesses to close their doors, but there will be a day when you can reopen. Here are steps you can take to prepare.

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused many small businesses to close their doors, but there will be a day when you can reopen. The Government of Canada is starting to explore what the new normal will look like, but in the meantime, here are steps you can take to prepare to reopen.

Why should you have a reopening plan?

Reopening your business after a shelter in place isn’t like opening a business for the first time. There are new considerations to make and processes to put in place that will change the way your business operates.

Because there is a lot of complexity when it comes to reopening after a shelter in place is lifted, having a well-documented, thoughtful plan in place ahead of time can help open your doors and start collecting revenue faster when the time comes.

Steps to writing a reopening plan

1. Take stock of what you’ve learned about your business.

While your business is closed, you may have time to observe and reflect on the new landscape your business will reenter.

What did you learn about your business, your employees, and your customers during this time? What did you learn from other businesses in your industry? Are there new processes you could put in place to improve your business? New products you’d like to offer?

Take stock of these learnings and find ways to improve when you reopen. You may come out of this shelter in place with a new business model, or you may just make a few tweaks to your current one. Taking time to reflect and deciding how your business can evolve is important to do first as it will dictate your plan for reopening.

2. List your areas of focus.

Once you’ve taken stock of some of the things you’ve learned and changes you might make, it’s time to plan your reopening more concretely. The easiest way to do this is by breaking it up into focus areas pertinent to your business.

The areas you pick should be specific to your business, but here are a few to get you started:

  • Finances
  • Supply chain
  • Physical location
  • Shipping and logistics
  • Workforce
  • Regulatory changes
  • Customers

3. Create a reopening plan for each area of focus.

Your plan for each area of focus should be specific to the way you plan to operate your business going forward. Here is a format you can follow and questions you can ask yourself to get started.

Finances: Here you can detail what financial assets you have today, their liquidity, and the total amount you have in the bank to restart your business. Then you can calculate how much money you will need to reopen. This calculation can be broken out into smaller line items (your areas of focus) to show how much you will need to fund each area to fully open your business. If these numbers aren’t matching up, that’s okay. From here, you can determine where you could potentially make cuts or changes or find funding that will work for your business.

Some questions about finance you can ask yourself to guide this process:

  • Do I expect the cost of any of my line items to change due to shelter-in-place mandates?
  • How will I document my expenses going forward if I need to report my finances to a lender?
  • If I decide to change my business model, what kind of revenue changes can I expect upon my reopening?
  • Are there any processes around payments or financing I might change?

Supply chain: Here you will want to provide details on how much supply you’ll need for your reopening, any new supplies you might need, and the logistics of getting those items. Because many of your vendors may have also needed to halt production, you’ll want to have a backup plan in case you can’t get all of the supplies you need in time for your reopening.

Some questions about supply chain you can ask yourself to guide this process:

  • Am I going to change any vendors for my supplies when I reopen?
  • What is the best alternative if I can’t get this item?
  • How far in advance will I contact my vendors for orders of my supplies?
  • Are there any new logistics in getting supplies that I should take into consideration?

Physical location: Here you will want to list what physical locations you plan to operate. If you are a multi location business, you will need to develop a reopening plan specifically for each of your locations, as different locales have different rules when it comes to lifting shelter-in-place restrictions.

Some questions about your physical locations you can ask yourself to guide this process:

  • Do I need to make any changes to the physical location or the way my location is set up to ensure the safety of my customers and employees?
  • Are there any improvements I want to make to my physical location to adapt to a new procedure or business model?
  • What signs or notices do I need to post in front of my location?

Shipping and logistics: Here you will document any new procedures for shipping and logistics that you may need to accommodate as you reopen. This is particularly important if you’re making changes to your business that will rely more heavily on shipping, curbside pickup, or delivery to reach your customers in new ways when you reopen.

Some questions about shipping and logistics you can ask yourself to guide this process:

  • Does reopening depend on enabling a new way to reach customers?
  • What are the new rules for shipping and logistics in my geographic region?
  • What change in revenue can I expect?
  • Are there new customer expectations I should set around the way we do shipping and logistics?

Workforce: Here you should document a plan for rehiring, ending furloughs, or bringing remote workers back to a physical location. Conversely, if the way you’re changing your business model doesn’t require a physical location, you’ll need to develop a plan for employees to work remotely. When you create a plan around your workforce, take into consideration recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada and laws in your Province.

Some questions about workforce you can ask yourself to guide this process:

  • What equipment (e.g., masks, physical barriers, gloves, thermometers) do I need to provide to ensure my employees are safe?
  • What procedures and protocols (e.g., temperature taking, hand washing) will I have in place to make sure employees are safe?
  • What do my employees say they need to feel safe at work?
  • If my employee doesn’t want to come back to work, or can’t due to illness, what will my policy be?

Regulatory changes: During the COVID-19 outbreak, many industries saw major regulatory changes that affect the way businesses operate. You’ll want to take stock of these and build plans around new regulations in your industry or industries adjacent to your business.

Some questions about regulations you can ask yourself to guide this process:

  • How will I stay on top of changing regulations in my industry?
  • Am I poised to pivot due to regulatory changes if I have to?
  • What revenue impact can I expect because of new regulations?

Customers: When it comes to your customers, you’ll need to think about their safety, managing their expectations, and communication. There are likely regulations from your province that you’ll need to follow when it comes to maintaining social distancing and requiring face coverings that you should take into account when planning to reopen.

You should also keep in mind best practices and what makes sense for your business beyond what is required. Then you can make a communication plan to tell customers what is required of them (e.g., don’t bring your own bags, you must wear a face covering). You can also communicate any changes in your business model such as new product offerings or new ways customers can engage with you.

Some questions about customers you can ask yourself to guide this process:

  • What new policies do I need to put in place to ensure customer and employee safety?
  • Are there new ways my customers can engage with my business under new regulations?
  • Do my customers have new needs that I can help them with?

4. Assemble a team to help you manage your reopening.

You don’t have to reopen your business alone. Assemble team members to manage each area of focus and hold them accountable for carrying out the plan successfully. To help with coordination, you can schedule virtual meetings regularly to discuss progress and readiness to reopen your doors.

As you plan, anticipate that some things will change as shelter-in-place orders are lifted and local and state governments learn more. The best you can do is pivot as you learn more and keep your business and your team agile.