Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau confirms what we already know from firsthand experience: Small businesses in the U.S. have suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies have had to close their doors, experiencing complete disruptions to their business. Fortunately, small businesses are beginning to open back up. If you are looking to reopen your small business after the coronavirus outbreak, we’re to help with guidelines for promoting safety, making your customers happy and helping your business succeed.
Tips for Reopening Your Business After COVID-19
Developing a reopening plan for your small business may seem like an overwhelming task in light of all the current challenges. We have 10 tips to help you work through important aspects of reopening your business.
1. Follow Your State Guidelines
First and foremost, you need to follow the requirements and guidelines provided by your state government. You can access your state’s reopening plan from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Some states have more restrictions than others, so even if you’ve been following the national news, you need to look into your state’s current requirements.
There are also different requirements and guidelines for different types of businesses, so make sure you look for guidance that pertains specifically to your business, whether it’s a store, a restaurant or some other type of establishment.
2. Consider Your Local Conditions
Beyond state mandates and guidelines, you should also carefully consider your local conditions. How widespread is the illness in your area? What are other businesses in your town doing? What are some common concerns you’ve heard from the local clientele?
Keeping a finger on the pulse of your local community is extremely important. This will help you determine the right time to reopen and the best way to do it so you can serve your customers well and come across to your community as responsible.
3. Check in With Your Employees
Many businesses had to let employees go, at least temporarily while they remained closed. Some of your previous employees may have gotten other jobs by this point or are uncomfortable with the idea of returning to work. Therefore, when you’re planning to reopen, you need to connect with your previous employees to see whether they are willing to return to work at your business.
If you are short-staffed, you will need to publish job ads, conduct interviews and hire the staff you need to properly serve your customers. You may be able to reopen with a limited staff, but you’ll quickly need to hire on and train additional employees.
4. Request Government Funding
One of the greatest challenges to many small businesses has been the financial impact of this crisis. Reopening means taking on costs like payroll and paying suppliers, which can be a major obstacle for businesses that had little or no revenue coming in while they were closed.
If you determine that you don’t have the finances you need to reopen, you may be able to obtain government assistance. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers loans and other resources to help small businesses get through the coronavirus pandemic. The government has a vested interest in helping small businesses like yours succeed.
5. Make Necessary Changes
Reopening likely won’t mean it’s back to business a usual. Instead, you’ll need to make some changes. The appropriate changes will depend on various factors and will differ from business to business. You may need to partner with new suppliers, for example, or implement new social distancing measures, which we discuss more below.
When it comes to your employees, you’ll need policies to promote a safe work environment. For instance, you may choose to implement temperature checks when employees arrive at work so you can send them home if they exhibit symptoms of illness.
6. Prioritize Hygiene
Hopefully, hygiene has always been a priority for your business. However, most businesses need to adopt more rigorous cleaning and hygiene procedures right now to help keep their employees and customers safe. This is especially a concern for food-service businesses, but it applies to all businesses.
For some businesses, this means doing the same cleaning tasks but doing them more frequently. Frequently sanitizing surfaces your customers touch, like credit card readers and door handles, can help you keep germs to a minimum. You can also include hand sanitizing stations to help customers keep their hands germ-free.
7. Update Your Online Information
If someone is interested in visiting your business, they are likely to look online to see whether you are open and what your current hours are. Keeping your Google My Business listing accurate is a must since this is one of the quickest ways for customers to see if your business is open. For restaurants, you can also use Google My Business to let people know whether you’re open for dine-in or are only offering delivery or carryout options.
You should also update your company’s website and all your social media pages so that, wherever customers look online, they’ll see accurate information.
8. Notify and Reassure Your Customers
In addition to updating your business’s status online, you should also find ways to communicate with your customers about your decision to reopen and your commitment to keeping them safe. This is an unsettling time, particularly for medically vulnerable populations, so you should be sensitive to your customers’ concerns.
If you’re implementing new policies, such as doing more cleaning, requiring masks or limiting your capacity, you should let the public know. This will help them feel safer in your business and — in the case of new requirements — prevent any surprises when they arrive.
9. Take This Opportunity to Make Upgrades
A potential silver lining of having to close your business temporarily is that this disruption can serve as an opportunity to reevaluate your business. Are there changes or upgrades you can make to help your business succeed going forward?
This could be the perfect time to start a new delivery service, for example. Or, maybe it’s time to finally get rid of those old POS terminals and install a new, fully modernized POS system. Whatever may have been holding your business back before, now is the time to make positive changes to propel you into the future.
10. Make Adjustments as Needed
Running a small business during these unprecedented times is a learning experience for everyone, so don’t expect to get everything right from the start. After you reopen, look for areas where you may need to make adjustments.
Are employees following the procedures you’ve put in place? Do you need better ways to enforce policies? Are customers responding well to the measure you’ve taken? Are customers choosing to shop or dine elsewhere because they prefer the way a competitor is handling the situation? Ask for feedback from employees and customers so you can continue to make positive changes.
Social Distancing Tips for Small Businesses
Social distancing has become a household term recently, but it’s more than just a buzzword. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), physical distancing between people is one of the best ways to keep COVID-19 from spreading. Specifically, the CDC recommends keeping 6 feet between people to limit exposure. This can be difficult in a business that is hustling and bustling with customers and employees, but you can take steps to promote social distancing at your business.
1. Limit Capacity
To make social distancing possible, you may have to limit your capacity. You can either count manually or use a people counter device to track the number of customers inside. When you reach the limit you’ve set, an employee will need to ask customers to line up outside, spaced 6 feet apart, and can let them in one by one as people exit the building.
2. Reorganize Your Layout
It’s not likely that you designed your business’s layout with social distancing in mind, so you may need to move some things around to accommodate it now. For example, a cafe may need to remove some tables and space the remaining tables farther apart. A store may need to space out popular items to prevent traffic jams in certain areas.
3. Create One-Way Traffic Patterns
Some stores are placing arrows on their floors to show which way shoppers should travel down an aisle. This is to prevent shoppers from passing each other in tight quarters going in opposite directions down an aisle. Especially if you have narrow aisles, making them one-way may be a smart move.
4. Provide Social Distancing Signage
You may think customers are well-versed by now in the importance of social distancing, but the reality is that old habits die hard, and many customers will forget at times to remain a safe distance from others. Installing friendly signage throughout your business can help remind your customers to social distance. You can also install floor decals 6 feet apart in checkout lanes or waiting areas to help customers know where to stand to socially distance.
5. Install Plexiglass Guards
Plexiglass guards, commonly referred to as sneeze guards, attach to checkout counters to provide a barrier between cashiers and customers. Since these barriers are transparent, they shouldn’t get in the way of employees’ and customers’ interactions, but they can prevent people from passing germs in places where they have to stand close together.
App Ordering Systems for Small Businesses
As of August 2019, 52.2% of food stores reported that they offered a store pickup or home delivery service. Allowing customers to order groceries or other products online through an app and then pick them up inside the store or curbside was already gaining popularity with customers before COVID-19, and the current circumstances accelerated that popularity even more.
If your store doesn’t currently have a way for customers to place orders and pick them up, now is the perfect time to add this service. Some businesses may be intimidated by the idea of creating a website or app from scratch to facilitate online orders. If that’s true for you, you may want to take advantage of a ready-made option, such as the BR Club app.
The BR Club online ordering app automatically loads in your inventory from your POS system so customers can see what’s available, neatly arranged into categories. The app is user-friendly and makes it easy for customers to fill their virtual carts and schedule a time to pick up their orders. The BR Club app only deducts a merchant fee of 5% per order — a lower percentage than you’ll see from similar apps.
The BR Club app takes all the logistical challenges out of online orders so all you have to do is fill the orders that come in and meet customers at the scheduled time. This can help your business draw in more customers who would prefer not to shop in-store.
Importance of Credit Card Processing for Reopening Your Small Business
Credit card processing is an important aspect of handling payments at any small business, and that importance is even more pronounced now. Small businesses need a reliable credit card processing system to facilitate typical in-store credit card transactions as well as to take online orders and offer contact-free payment options in-store.
When customers pay online, that’s known as a card-not-present transaction. The merchant fee for card-not-present transactions tends to be higher than for transactions where customers swipe or insert their cards in your store. This makes it especially important that you partner with a merchant service provider who offers competitive and transparent processing fees. NRS Pay merchants pay well under the industry norm for card-not-present transactions. With these transactions, also be certain to follow best practices to ensure the transaction is secure and successful.
Using NRS Pay also allows you to accept contactless mobile payments through our EMV card reader. Some customers prefer to pay with mobile wallet apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay because they can do so without ever touching the credit card reader. This eliminates a possible source of passing germs. If you accept contactless payments, make sure you advertise that. To some customers, this will be a valuable perk of patronizing your business.
Merchant Services and More From National Retail Solutions
National Retail Solutions (NRS) has always made it our mission to help small businesses succeed, and that mission is possibly more important now than ever before. As you reopen your business, consider partnering with NRS Pay as your merchant service provider and taking advantage of our other great products and services, including our state-of-the-art POS system, the POS+, and the BR Club app for online ordering.
We know these are trying times, but we’re here to help you manage your business and provide customers with a positive experience so you can overcome the current challenges and watch your small business thrive.
National Retail Solutions offers an all-in-one Point of Sale bundle complete with heavy duty hardware and an easy to use software interface.Ask for a quote to learn how much our systems cost.Buy now to get a competitive advantage in your market.