There’s been a lot of talk in the news about states getting ready to reopen, so it’s not surprising there’s a lot of talk about it in networking groups and among my friends, too. I’m hearing a lot of questions and concerns about what will happen when people start moving around more and what businesses can and should be doing to prepare.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot we still don’t know about how this disease works and about the rules and regulations that states will put in place. We’re going to be living in a world of uncertainty for a while.
That’s a sobering statement, but you know me: I’m an optimist. I believe there are things we can do to stay as safe, healthy and productive as possible, even though we can’t see a clear path right now.
I’m definitely not alone in this: I recently attended a virtual Christian Chamber of Commerce meeting where I heard Krystal Parker of Intent and Impact speak on seven steps a business needs to take to be ready to open when the time comes. Check out her list here. I was honored to brainstorm with her on a few of the steps, and I wanted to expand on some of them here.
Focus on Your Mission
If you’ve heard me say it once, you’ve heard me say it a million times: Knowing why you do what you do—your purpose and passion—is at the heart of the success of your business. It’s what gets you up in the morning and keeps you going; it’s what causes you to invest in and grow your business. What might surprise you is how important it is to your employees and customers, too.
I was talking to a client recently, the owner of a marketing firm specializing in Google ads for small businesses. He was telling me that he was eligible for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, but he was reluctant to apply; there were other small businesses out there who might need it more than him. One of his employees overheard him say this and was astonished—not because he was surprised that his boss was concerned about small businesses but because the owner was so passionate about and supportive of small businesses that it changed his calculations about how his own business should behave.
That’s an owner who is truly living his mission, and it translates into enthusiasm and dedication among his employees, especially during hard times like these. His employees are going to be more excited to get back to work because they will be eager to be part of that mission and make a difference in the lives and businesses of their clients.
A Sidebar on Being Ready
A sidebar here: Getting ready to reopen will mean different things to different businesses and to different people. Maybe your employees can work from home for the foreseeable future, like a lot of the employees at my Google marketing client. Maybe you’ve had to furlough some or all of your employees because what they do needs to be done in the office or onsite at a client. Maybe you’ve got a mix: some employees can work easily from home and some can’t.
As we reopen, what your employees do and where they need to do it won’t be the only thing that decides whether they’re ready or able to come back to work. Some employees will feel that being in daily contact with others is still too risky. Some may have kids and have no one to care for them until schools and daycares open back up. Some may have underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the disease or be caring for an ill family member. Some may be making more money on unemployment and not want to give that up.
The point is that it’s not all about whether your business can open back up; there are a lot of personal variables at play. Getting your team excited all over again about your mission and the difference they can make in the world will go a long way to getting them excited about going back to work, but you also need to address the elephant in the room: safety.
Make Sure Your Facility is Safer and Cleaner Than Ever
We’re all used to creating an environment that fosters productivity, dedication and contentment (check out my article on Creating an Environment for GREAT Things to Happen; all that is still relevant and important today). A lot of us are used to offering those amenities and niceties that make an office environment welcoming, like good coffee, holiday potlucks and team outings for our employees and good coffee, a comfortable and friendly seating area and attentive services for our clients.
A clean and safe office or workplace has always been part of a great environment, but we really need to up our game now. COVID-19 has changed a lot of things, but one thing it has changed more than most is our concept of what it means to be safe and clean.
Krystal has some good tips in her article on what to look for physically, but safety is also a state of mind: Do your employees and clients feel that their wellbeing is one of your primary concerns? Step one is to make those health and safety changes, whether that involves deeper and more frequent cleaning, providing personal protective equipment, operating at reduced density or keeping some services online. Then communicate about those changes to your employees and clients. Ask for their feedback; employees, especially, might think of something you haven’t. Let your employees and clients feel heard. They may be worried and stressed about venturing out, so let them know you care and that you’re doing everything you can to make your facility as safe as it can be.
Know Your Policies and Procedures
I say that you should do everything you can to make your facility as safe as it can be, because there is unfortunately nothing that is one hundred percent safe, even before there was a new coronavirus. All any of us can do is the best we can, within the bounds of rules, regulations and our own moral code.
One of Krystal’s recommendations is to Reevaluate policies and procedures. That’s important advice because we are all restricted in what we can do, to some extent, by rules and regulations. I remember years ago when I got an HR assessment from Mindy Flannigan of Inspiring HR. I was pretty confident I knew everything I needed to know about policies and procedures; after all, I had been in business a long time. Mindy showed me exactly how ignorant I was, and how much I didn’t know about what I didn’t know.
It’s always a good idea to have an HR resource you can get up with to make sure you’ve got a handle on policies and procedures, but it’s especially important right now. As you are formulating your reopening plan, you need a solid grasp on what you can and cannot do, legally, with regard to employees. It will save you a lot of headaches and help your reopening go as smoothly as possible.
What Else? Keep Bringing in Business!
Krystal’s article offers seven great tips for getting ready to reopen. I would like to offer an eighth one. Several people have asked me, “When should I start trying to bring in business?” My answer is, “I hope you never stopped!” So Tip 8 is Keep bringing in business! Always be bringing in business!
I know the economy tanked. Many of you have not been able to continue business as usual—but that doesn’t mean you should give up. You might have to change or dial back, but I encourage you to never, ever stop working on bringing in business.
I‘ve written about this a couple of times in my blog since this crisis began (How Will I Make Money? and Be a Victor, Not a Victim), but here’s a quick summary of what my clients and contacts and I are finding works, regardless of what kind of business you have:
Make caring calls. Caring calls aren’t sales calls; they’re personal calls to check in. Make them to clients, vendors, suppliers and other connections. Ask how they’re doing—not just how their business is doing, but how they’re doing personally. Find out what they need help with. You may be able to help them, or you may be able to connect them to someone else who can. You may be able to cheer them up, which isn’t a small thing these days. I’ve had several clients tell me that just hearing from me boosted their mood and inspired them to get working; they’re starting to bring in more business again because of that. I also recently made a call to a woman who is always great at calling and checking in with other people. I suspected that maybe no one was doing that for her. I was right, and we had a great conversation. Incidentally, I got a speaking engagement out of that call, but that’s not why I made it. I made it because I care, because we’re all in this together and we need to keep in touch.
Continue to network. I’ve participated in way more networking events since mid-March than I did in the first two and a half months of the year. In some ways, it’s even easier to pack in networking events, since you don’t have to leave your house to attend. On the other hand, I feel like I’m being much more intentional about which events I join and who I connect with. For instance, I’ve recently reached out individually to a few people I met virtually through networking events: a businessperson with experience in a software I’m interested in; the owner of a franchise; an author; a coach who has some overlap with what I do. When you’re networking, ask yourself who can you learn from? Who might be good to collaborate with? Who just seems like your type of person? Schedule a one-on-one Zoom session with them and see what comes from it.
Be the provider of choice. The economy is discouraging; we’re all worried about what will happen when things open back up—but people are hungry for services. They want to get their hair done; they want to get back to working out; they want to eat something they didn’t make at home; they want to have (or need to have) work done on their homes; they want help getting their business back on track. Whether you provide personal services or business services, there is a market for it. That market may be smaller than it was, but it’s out there. Use the tips in this post and from Krystal’s article to be the person or company they call.
Above all, stay as positive as you can. Go back to the first thing I said in this article: Focus on your mission. Believing in what you do is powerful and attractive. It will draw others to you, and when they see that you care about them and their health and safety, they will want to do business with you, and you will rock reopening. I know you can do it.