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Reopening for business adapt to new normal in the novel Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Rear view of business owner wearing medical mask placing open sign
5 min read

How to restart your business post Covid-19 lockdown

Although some small businesses have continued to operate since the Covid-19 lockdown was introduced on 23 March, many others have been severely disrupted, with the more unfortunate having already gone bust. 

Many business owners in England will have warmly greeted news that some lockdown restrictions will be eased from 4 July. Restaurants, pubs, cafés, hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan parks will be allowed to reopen if they follow safety guidelines. 

Owners throughout England (and soon possibly elsewhere in the UK) now need to try to reopen, recover and revitalise their businesses, and you may be among them. So, which areas should you focus on and what key tasks do you need to complete? 

Risk assessment

Carrying out a risk assessment should be your first step. Carefully consider all areas of your business to identify potential risks and decide how you’ll satisfy legal requirements and safeguard the health of your customers, suppliers, staff and other stakeholders (not forgetting yourself).  

Customers

Obviously, with as much notice as possible, you’ll need to inform your customers about when you’ll be fully up and running again. They’ll need to know if your opening times have changed, as well as any other important changes, for example, if they need to book before visiting you or make contactless card payments, etc.   

Tell them about the social distancing or hygiene measures you’ve introduced that affect them. It will reassure them, encourage trust and help to rebuild your customer relationships. Communication with your customers must be even better than usual. Use all appropriate channels. 

Employees

Communication with your staff must also be exceptional (free guidance is available from the CIPD). Bringing employees back from furlough or working from home must be carefully planned. Phasing returns could make it easier. You need to give your employees sufficient notice. Some may need to continue to work from home, for example, if their children’s school is still closed.   

You may need to stagger working hours and breaks or introduce shifts to ensure acceptable social distancing. More vulnerable workers may need additional sheltering, while homeworkers also need protection. Consultation and good communication can prevent problems. Your people should feel able to raise any issues with you. Update and circulate all employment policies impacted by Covid-19 

You may need to buy PPE (personal protective equipment), gloves and face coverings for staff and train them in their use, as well as any new protocols you’ve introduced. Employees must continue to thoroughly wash their hands frequently. You too have a legal responsibility to safeguard their physical and mental health. Some may have been through a tough time, so be supportive and signpost reliable mental health information. Hold regular staff meetings, so that any problems can be discussed and (hopefully) resolved 

You may need to rethink roles and restructure your business post lockdown – maybe even make redundancies. Where necessary, seek tailored HR advice. Managing holiday leave could provide another big challenge, depending on your staff numbers and holiday leave remaining.   

Premises

Your premises could need reorganising to facilitate allowable social distancing. Some businesses will need to turn meeting rooms and other places into permanent workspaces. New protocols for taking or making deliveries could be required. Bins may need to be emptied more frequently if they contain rubber gloves and cleaning items.  

Additional hygiene measures are likely, such as greater access to hand sanitiser or more frequent/intense cleaning. Regularly remind your staff about additional hygiene precautions and display basic instructions about how to prevent Coronavirus spreading. The government has published COVID-19 advice for those who run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.  

Cash flow

While your business is attempting to get back on track, keep a close eye on your cash flow especially if you’ve been reliant on government financial support in recent months. If this is reduced or withdrawn, it could have a dramatic impact, especially if your costs increase and/or you fail to rebuild your revenue/sales.  

Producing a post lockdown cash flow forecast may not be easy, because estimating your likely sales in these exceptional times could be difficult. But working out a few what-if?” scenarios could help, for example, to see how much you need to reduce your costs if your sales are less than expected. It could also reveal how much you need to borrow to survive any short-term cash-flow problems. Your accountant may also be able to provide useful guidance.  

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Suppliers

Obviously, you also need to let your suppliers know when you’ll be re-opening. They’ll also need to tell you whether they’re open and if can service your needs. You’ll need to tell each other about any new Covid-19 measures that affect supplies/deliveries. You may need to check your stock levels and (to avoid disappointment) get your orders in early enough. Suppliers may be under pressure to keep all customers happy.  

Marketing 

Some businesses will need to make sure that their products/services meet Covid-19 safety guidelines. Changes may be necessary. Some of your existing products or services might not appeal as much post Covid-19 lockdown, others might be more in demand. Whatever the case, reconsider your prices to see whether you need to decrease or increase them. Creating or introducing brand new products/services/offers might help you to recover some sales revenue.  

Your sales strategy could need a total rethink. You may need to commit to some new marketing activity to attract new customers. You may need to make changes to your website. Creating a new marketing plan could really help you.  

Proper planning

Small adjustments may be enough to help some small business to restart post Covid-19 lockdown. In other cases, far bigger changes may be necessary. A fair measure of thinking, planning, preparation and caution is required, if your business is to survive, while protecting your staff, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.   

Having a “Plan B” is advisable in all areas when faced with so much uncertainty. You should also plan your response should a new Covid-19 spike happen. At least you now know what you and your people must do. You also need to look after yourself in the coming months and not less stress affect your wellbeing 

You should plan to restart in a controlled, gradual, safe manner. There will be challenges ahead, some bigger than others, and you may not get everything right in the months ahead, but that’s understandable. All of us will make mistakes along the way as we try to get used to the new normal.  

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