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Charles Sterck, CPA / Tax Principal in the RINA San Francisco office.
Charles R. SterckCPA /Principalview bio

Are you Ready to Reopen your Business?

5/12/2020

Let’s talk about getting your business ready for reopening and success after the COVID-19 lockdown. 

Do you think you are ready to return to business as usual? 

This truth is business is not going to be the same so there is no “usual” to return to… start planning now!

And when I think of your office opening for your team and customers, I think of it in two major parts…

  • How your people will physically move within your space. And
  • Your customers and clients 

Let address the Office space first

Have you thought about the changes that you need to make to your office for the day when your people return? Physical distancing is likely to continue a for quite some time. This goes for every aspect of what it took for you to get to work. It includes public transportation if you use it, and if you drive, the parking garage where you are accustomed to parking.

Physical distancing will be all round you. My guess is that signs will be EVERYWHERE reminding you not only to remain 6 feet apart, but you will see arrows directing the flow of foot traffic.

Will you need signs within your office? If so, where will they be? And what about places you use to gather people? Will you need to limit the number of people in those spaces? Should you remove some chairs from the conference room as well as your other favorite meeting spaces. Thinking through all of this now will make your transition not only smoother but also bring comfort to your office team.

And it does not stop here with arrows and 6 feet reminders…. What will you do about things that you used to share in the office? No more will a container of treats be shared by the pool…. All treats are likely to be single servings. Will you have to say goodbye to those boxes of delicious donuts and homemade cakes and pies? Have you thought about the much-appreciated coffee pots that so many like to huddle around first thing in the morning? What is your plan around this highly sought-after libation?

Social distancing at work

The truth is that people are exercising extreme caution, verbalizing reluctance, and acting nervous about going back to communal office spaces. This concern is not exclusively about the office per-se but it involves the big picture which includes not only the method of transportation they will use to get to work but also concern around the methods used by others in the office. 

And how many offices will take the temperature of those who enter their suites? Will this be one of your policies? If so, get your digital forehead thermometer now and avoid the rush! 

What restrictions or policies will the building management put in place that you will need to adapt to? WIll they limit access to your business, limit the hours, what? What about the janitorial services?

The details are not few! Think about your specific space with your team in mind and begin to make your plan to gradually open your office so that everyone feels and is safe. Ask your team for input. Consider anonymous surveys.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued general guidelines and recommendations to be followed to mitigate the chances of contracting COVID-19. Highlights include implementing flexible worksites (e.g., telework), flexible hours, increasing physical space between employees, and more. For more details visit the CDC Community page.

The issues associated with reopening are not limited to the physical space. When returning furloughed or separated employees consider the impact that partial work may have on your team members eligibility for unemployment and the enhanced benefits offered under the CARES Act. 

Older man sanitizing work spaceAdditionally, consideration must be given if the business has successfully obtained funding under the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). For example, to enjoy forgiveness, 75% of the forgiven amount must be used for payroll related expenditures. For more information on this visit RINA resources found at the PPP tools page and the COVID-19 webinar recording library. And if your business rehires those who had been formally separated from employment (as opposed to being on furlough) such people will need to be re-enrolled in all appropriate employee benefits and treated the same as all new hires. 

Special consideration for “high risk” work team members will be needed. The CDC has stated that “older adults” and people who have “severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes “seem to be at a higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19.” For this reason, you must weigh employee safety against the legal issues involved with potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Seek the advice of a good employment practices attorney. Check the ever-changing health landscape and CDC guidelines for high-risk employees returning to work.

The bottom line is that everyone must welcome people in what is likely to be an uncomfortably different space upon return. Those who think through all the details now will be able to function most efficiently. At the end of the day, this will require that everyone adapt new habits and make a shift to adapt to the inconveniences, new process, and protocols as well as delays that these coronavirus safety policies will require. The key is planning and then clearly communicating to employees all the steps the business is taking to protect them.

Your Customers and Clients

COVID-19 has upset every business in different ways. Some have been able to swiftly move to remote work while others had to adjust operations, and some had to close their doors entirely and focus on damage control. Are you set up for business when the flood gates open? What have you done to prepare for this?

Every business will face challenges as society begins to reopen while the community continues to face the public health threat of the coronavirus. Brick and mortar business will be forced to address customers concerns about being in confined spaces with others irrespective of the safety measures in place. And even service business like banks, doctors, lawyers, accountants and the like that welcome clients into their space need to think through the same issues. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and institute policies that will engender trust and comfort for your customers. You cannot do enough to make it convenient, comfortable, and welcoming for your customers to do business with you.

Are you Proactive or Reactive?

When the pandemic hit, most people were shocked and became reactive. This is understandable…. After all, we knew little of what was to come. But now we know differently.

Let’s break this down…

Ask yourself the question…. Has COVID-19 damaged your business? 

Answer NO: Great! Proceed as business as usual. But do not forget to continue and seek new opportunities. Skip the remainder of this section.

Answer YES: then we have bigger challenges. Keep reading

Ask yourself the question… Can we offer our services and/or products in a different way?

Answer YES: Great! You have your pathway to success. Skip the remainder of this section.

Answer NO: you continue to have your challenge. Keep reading

Ask yourself the question… Can our current infrastructure deliver or produce a different product or service that is currently needed by my current customers?

Answer YES: Great! You have your pathway to success. Skip the remainder of this section.

Answer NO: Focus on damage control and work specifically to retain the company until it is time to reopen.

So much is going to change as businesses reopen. Already you see massive changes and significant or planned closures of multiple long-standing restaurant chain locations including Applebee’s, Ruby Tuesday, Hooters, Boston Market, The Cheesecake Factory, TGI Friday’s, Red Robin, Baja Fresh and so many more. 

Do not just sit and wait… Ask yourself now… What can I do to preserve and protect my valuable customer base? 

Distancing tape on office floorTalk to your customers and ask them. Create a Customer Advisory Board and get their ideas from them. You worked hard to develop this client base and to create these valuable relationships. Don’t let it go without making absolutely sure that this your only option. Let them know that you are there and that you care. Understand their needs and tell them that when the state reopens that you will contact them and make things happen. Is there a way that you can bring our business to or create an online platform? Because of this pandemic, many more people are getting accustomed to on-line service providers. Plan today so that you are poised to fly when time comes.

I recall making a call to a local sewing machine store that is closed due to COVID-19. While they were very nice, they simply said “The location is closed, and we have to wait for when the governor says we can open”. What was missing from this conversation? They could have asked me…

  • What is going on with your machine?
  • What is the make and model?
  • Give me your phone number. Is it OK that I call you when we can open?
  • Offer assurance that they are there and will help the very moment things re-open.

Are you asking these types of questions? If not, why not? What training have you given to your front-line workers? This can make all the difference to your long-term success. Change the things that you can entrepreneurs. Leave the things that you cannot change behind.Retain the “can do” attitude. Think about partnering with other businesses that serve the same clients you serve. We call this host beneficiary relationships.

There are many industries that are dead in the water right now due to this pandemic, but many will come back larger than life. Weddings, for example, will be in high demand. Brides may postpone wedding plans, but they do not cancel them. Think about this.

Bottom line, those companies that are well prepared will always recover more quickly.

For more information on becoming well prepared contact your RINA professional or email the Director of Strategic Growth, Charles Sterck.

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