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Time to Reopen Your Small Business? How to Transition Safely

As of June 1, most businesses in Iowa have been given the go-ahead to again offer in-person services. This is requiring many to redefine normal. Each small business owner will have to define what is best for them. These tips may help you find what works for you, your team and your customers and clients.

Follow Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend proper social distancing for all people, including while at work. Create physical and spatial separation between team members, as well as between your team and customers. Make sure your employees understand the importance of handwashing and disinfecting spaces, and make sure they have the tools, knowledge and confidence to do so consistently.

You can also take steps to ensure your physical space is healthy, including staggering shifts, adjusting your ventilation systems and water supply, and updating your tool sharing and visitor policy. The CDC also recommends reassessing your sick leave and remote work policy so employees do not feel pressured to return to work if they are ill and can immediately leave if they become ill. Your illness policy should be nonpunitive, flexible and ADA compliant.

Finally, check the Iowa Department of Public Health, the US Chamber of Commerce and your industry for guidelines specific to your workplace.

Communicate Your Plans

Telling your customers you are ready to see them again requires more than just flipping the “open” sign in your window or updating your website. How you communicate your reopening is a chance to make or break your relationship with customers. Your message should clearly and compassionately tell customers what they can expect from you and what you expect from them. Be aware that some customers may not be ready to return, so offer flexibility wherever you can.

You should also communicate your plan everywhere your customers connect with you in person, online or elsewhere. And, most importantly, practice what you preach — let your customers and clients see you are following through with enforcing social distance, cleaning and other practices.

Support Your Staff

It is more important than ever to show up for your team as an honest and supportive resource. Provide timely, regular updates that clearly communicate changes and how staff will be impacted. Check in and be flexible with employees who are likely dealing with concerns outside of work. When it is appropriate, offer resources and accommodate your employees’ needs. And, trust your employees — you hired them for a reason, let them know they are valued and respected members of your team.

However you choose to open, this time is bound to be challenging and uncertain. What can be certain is that the most successful small businesses will be those who can employ patience, flexibility and creativity. Skills we can all use more of when all of this is over.