June 8, 2020 | Business Plans
Maine has begun the reopening process for some of the businesses that were forced to close due to COVID-19. As the summer goes on, and we enter the other phases of the reopening plan, even more will be permitted to open their doors. But just because your business can (or soon can) open, should it? No two businesses are alike, even if they’re in the same industry or location. So while you may want to reopen your business, here are five important questions you should ask yourself before you do.
1. How will your customers respond?
Even if you’re ready to reopen, your customers may not be ready to return. Already in Maine, some retailers who have reopened have been slow. Or if you’re one of the many Portland-area food businesses, customers may be more comfortable keeping to take out than they are to dining outside.
2. Will your supply chain be ready to accommodate your needs?
Beyond ensuring you have enough products or materials needed to conduct your business, consider other supplies required to adapt to these new times. If your business involves human contact — such as a barber or hair stylist — do you have access to the necessary protective equipment to keep your staff and customers safe? Does your business have cleaning materials to sanitize surfaces?
3. What changes must you make to keep your employees safe?
Your employees will likely expect plexiglass barriers, hand sanitizer, mask requirements and social distancing practices to keep them safe. Are you prepared and able to do those things? Do you employ older individuals who are at a higher risk of infection? Some employees may have legally protected rights if you can make a “reasonable accommodation” (under the Americans with Disabilities Act) that makes them comfortable to return to work. If you are facing these issues, consult with your employment attorney.
4. Are you prepared to accept the risk that someone may contract COVID-19 at your business?
Be sure to follow the reopening guidelines set forth by the State of Maine, heed the advice of the Center for Disease Control and document your safety measures. If someone becomes seriously ill, and it appears to be due to exposure at your workplace, you may need to provide this documentation. Legal issues aside, you are responsible for the health and safety of the people at your place of business.
5. What are your competitors doing?
Just as you would look at the competition when considering your business approach, so should you when considering your reopening plan. Are your competitors reopening and threatening your share of the market? Are there certain practices they’re applying that you should consider as well (e.g. curbside pickup or online ordering)?
You’re no doubt eager to return to business, and as Maine reopens, you may feel the pressure to get back to work or fear damaging your livelihood. But also, it’s not an all or nothing decision. You could open up on a reduced schedule or by appointment only. From there you can gauge the reaction and adjust accordingly.