With non-essential businesses across the UK set to receive the go-ahead to re-open their doors in under a fortnight’s time, hundreds of business owners are faced with the daunting prospect of how best to handle this process.
Of all the many challenges that business owners have faced over recent months, this is perhaps one of the most complex and important. After all, while lockdown may be easing somewhat, the UK still remains in the grip of the pandemic and uncertainty is as rife as ever.
Nevertheless, this is a time of optimism for those that have survived the initial crisis and are looking to restart their trade. So how best can you navigate the reopening of your business and ensure that it is safe and successful? Here are our four top tips.
Plan your relaunch
The first thing you will need is a detailed map or plan for your relaunch. This will give you a framework to work from as you prepare to reopen. Ensure that you plan meticulously for every area of your business, from customers, to store or office layout, to products.
A plan will enable you to best prioritise areas to focus on when reopening and, if you’re struggling as a result of the lockdown, can help you build a timescale for your business’ recovery. You will need to draw up a baseline reopening scenario that also factors in variables and alternative scenarios.
Moreover, testing this against how your reopening actually pans out will help you plan and react accordingly.
Reassure your customer base
Aside from rushed trips to the supermarket and maybe a cautious outing to a garden centre, most people in Britain haven’t set foot in a shop since the middle of March. While there may be a rush of people taking advantage of the opportunity to return to shops, there will understandably be just as many with serious trepidations about the risks.
In order for your relaunch to be successful with customers, you will need to both meet strict health and safety measures and be able to show this to customers. Adopting safety practices such as maximum customer numbers, strict social distancing and the provision of hand sanitiser will go some way towards making sure your business is safe for customers, but it will be just as important to communicate this proactively to your customer base, to ensure they feel totally confident returning to your business.
Safeguard your employees
Just as important, if not more so, than reassuring your customers will be safeguarding the health and safety of your returning employees. If your employees are unable to work remotely, then it’s up to you to ensure that health and safety conditions in the workplace are absolutely faultless and that your staff have every provision they need to feel safe.
Whether that includes temperature checks, plastic screens at tills and checkouts or even PPE if necessary, providing what your employees need for their safety will both protect them and help your reopening be as successful as possible. It hardly needs saying that a satisfied workforce will be a more productive and motivated workforce.
Be flexible and prepared for anything
Although lockdown is easing, coronavirus remains a stubborn presence in the UK and the threat of a second wave will remain for some time. So, while your efforts may be focused on re-opening, you will also need to bear in mind that things could very rapidly change again, potentially even to the point where you are shuttering your store for a second lockdown.
Ensure that any changes you make when reopening your business are both scalable and reversible. This will allow you to incrementally build your business up during the reopening process, but, should the situation rapidly change, will also enable you to scale back those changes without too much trouble.
While many businesses have done well to survive thus far, those that will be best positioned to survive the turbulent times to come will be those who have prepared and planned their reopening as meticulously as possible.
The key is to be as cautious about the health and safety of yourself, your customers and your employees as possible. While you will understandably be keen to ramp your business back up after being closed for so long, proper health and safety will be the bedrock of a successful recovery.