Re-opening is happening at a measured rate across the country, and the pace is different from province to province. Whether your business is already open, re-opening soon or you’re looking ahead to a future date, there will be some things to consider as you welcome customers again – because opening in this new environment may not be as simple as flipping the same switch again. Planning carefully, understanding the policies and implementing new processes will have to figure prominently into your re-open efforts.
Here is a checklist of considerations to help you open your doors safely, efficiently and productively.
1. Make it easy for customers to shop with you
As in-person shopping opens up, shoppers may have to contend with crowds and line ups given regional capacity restrictions – especially for small and/or popular stores.
To help make for a great experience for all shoppers – including those who want to come in-person and those who prefer to buy remotely – consider starting or maintaining the processes you implemented over the past year:
- Keep up curbside: Curbside pick-up has been a game changer for businesses during the pandemic and consumers have taken to this new distribution channel as it often allows consumers to get their goods same-day without having to enter a store. Continue to make it really easy for your customers by making it clear what to do upon arrival at your location. Consider scheduled pick-up windows and dedicated parking spots for seamless fulfillment.
- Create a top-notch online experience: If your business doesn’t yet have an online presence, now is the time to create one. And if you’re already online, it’s critical to keep your website and social media channels up to date. After all, consumers can no longer assume when a store is open or how they are operating. At the same time, ensure your online ordering, delivery and returns process are customer-friendly and reliable.
- Add online tools to make it easier for everyone: Let your customers schedule pickup, book appointments and secure reservations through your website. Set up your store with Moneris Online to make things easy for you too!
- Set targeted store hours: Consider grandparents-only times or appointment-based shopping to reduce traffic.
- Be clear about your status. Clarity is king in this environment and your website is the perfect spot to specify your state of openness. Are you open? If so, what are your hours? Are you accepting customers by appointment only? Are you offering curbside pick-up? Can customers enter your location? And if so, do they have to follow any particular safety precautions or wear any equipment? These are the questions on the minds of your customers, so be sure to clearly answer them. It’s also a good idea to be clear that the information reflects the current circumstances – adding an “as of” date can offer the transparency consumers are seeking.
2. Understand and implement the latest safety standards
There’s no question that protecting your customers and your employees will be priority number one – it’s just a matter of knowing what steps meet the regional standards and what’s in the best interest of your employees and customers.
Because every province will have different protocols, it’s best to do your research to understand the rules and best practices issued by your government and shared by your industry. What are the in-person capacity restrictions for your region? What are the social distancing rules? What measures must you have in place to ensure employee safety – both on the job and on staff breaks?
And if you have an employee who is reluctant to return to work due to safety concerns? Be empathetic to their concerns and take them through all of the measures you are putting in place to protect everyone who walks through your doors. Understanding your rights as an owner – and the rights of your staff in your province –is an important step to take before an issue arises.
As guidelines are evolving, it’s best to check in with your provincial government often, and keep your employees informed as changes occur.
The Canadian Business Resilience Network provides the National Reopening Government Regulation Tracker, which offers updated rules and regulations by federal and provincial/territorial jurisdictions.
3. Map out your cash flow
When it comes to cash flow, you can never over-prepare. Given the sustained level of uncertainty businesses have faced – and will continue to deal with into the future – it’s a good idea to map out a few different scenarios. Consider forecasting a best-case scenario, a worst-case, and something in between.
If you have multiple stores or locations, think about whether it makes sense to open one to begin with. It may be easier to refine processes and catch any issues while working with a single spot. Of course, this approach will need to be weighed with the opportunity costs of keeping your other locations closed.
Our article Managing Cash Flow in a Time of Crisis: 6 Strategies For Business Owners offers several forecasting tips and optimization strategies to help you gain control of your cash flow.
You can also use the RBC Business Cash Flow tool to get an analysis of your current cash flow position.
4. Check In on Your Supply Chain
Traditional supply chains have been significantly disrupted by a number of factors driven by the pandemic. From changing customer demand to labour shortages to export restrictions, many suppliers and distributors have experienced great upheaval to their operations.
So what does that mean for you? It’s a good idea to contact your key suppliers and check on their status. Get to know if there are any changes to their operations and/or their delivery dates so you can manage your own inventory accordingly.
This is also a good opportunity to review agreements and contractual obligations and make any adjustments necessary.
5. Reach Out to Your Customers
Once you’re open, what happens next? While you might find customers are lining up outside your door at Day 1, you might want to plan for a different scenario. Just in case. Actively engage with your customers to let them know you’re open, you missed them, and are looking forward to seeing them again. This is also a good opportunity to outline the steps you’re taking to protect your employees and your customers.
If you have collected email addresses (and all necessary consent), now is the time to send out a notice that you’re open for business.
Social media channels are also excellent options to get the word out quickly!
6. Don’t Do It Alone
These are challenging times, the likes of which our generation has never seen. You are being put in a situation to make difficult business decisions with information that changes regularly, and it’s not easy. But you don’t have to go it alone.
To help you navigate this time, leverage your network for insight and perspective. While your contacts haven’t been through a global health pandemic before now, they may have experience with the economic crisis or dealt with supply chain, cash flow or HR issues that could be similar to the ones you’re facing. Whether it’s a mentor, a local chamber of commerce, or a neighbourhood business group, connect with people you trust and use them as a sounding board. There is strength in numbers, and the more you can lean on others for support, the easier it will be to re-open successfully.
The Canadian Business Resilience Network is a comprehensive resource established by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to help the business community prepare, preserve and ultimately prosper in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the way you do business will change, there is plenty of room for opportunity and optimism in this new environment. It’s important to be prepared, be flexible, and open to any and all silver linings this ‘new normal’ might offer you.
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.