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Coping with a slow return of trade post lockdown

ByDave Stopher

Jul 21, 2020 #Business

Covid has, without a doubt been a terrible time for most small businesses but there is now light at the end of the tunnel as many countries around the world begin to ease lockdown restrictions how should small businesses get back into the groove?

In this post, we’ll give you some simple steps you can take to get your business in shape to open up once again.

Carry out your risk assessment

This has to be the first step for any business as understanding the risk posed to both customers and staff is the key to putting in place measure to minimise or eliminate them.

Look at the way that your company operates; what things cause an increase in risks?

Do you need to think about social distancing? Is there any physical contact with customers? What aspects of your locations increase the risk?

By making a full assessment you can start to produce an action plan that will give you steps you can take to make your workplace safe.

Develop your hygiene procedures

Make sure that members of staff have adequate handwashing facilities and are trained to use them. Hygiene is the key to stopping disease transmission so don’t just pay lip service to it, make it part of your standard operating procedures.

Ensure that you provide enough PPE of the right type for your staff and your customers. You shouldn’t just assume that a customer that turns up to your nail bar will bring with them a facemask, instead make sure that they are provided with one on entry.

Develop a cleaning regime for your location.

For example, if you are a hairdresser then look at all the parts of the shop that a customer may touch such as the door, chair, counter etc. and then devise a regime for regularly disinfecting these.

Perhaps think about disposable covers for chairs and providing a handwashing station on the way into your premises.

Regular and thorough cleaning is important, even for parts of your establishment that may seem to be low risk.

Get physical measures in place

Having physical measures in place to stop the spread of infection will do three things; it will help protect your staff, it will help protect your customers and it will signal to your customers that you are taking the current situation seriously.

Think about screens around checkouts, queueing measures, enforcing social distancing and any other things that reduce the risk of transmission.

If you have staff working from home then where possible it may be advisable to keep them there until any danger has passed.

For staff that do have to travel to work then consider their transport arrangements – do they need to use public transport? If so, are they using proper precautions such as wearing a mask and gloves?

Think about the economics

All businesses are different, so whilst some may welcome a smaller number of customers in a safe way, for other companies this simply isn’t viable.

Do your sums and work out whether you are better staying closed or if it is better to have a managed, gradual return to work.

In the UK the government is allowing a phased return to work and it may well be that it makes sense to bring in only the bare minimum of staff to manage customer needs.

It may also be the case that some staff can’t return to work because they are either looking after children full-time or because they have a vulnerable person in the household and are isolating.

It is very important that as an employer you bring staff with you on the journey and so regular communication and understanding their individual situation is crucial.

Consequently, it is necessary for businesses to understand what level of staffing they can afford and what they can get by with.

Remember cash flow

There can’t be many businesses that haven’t had cash flow issues during lockdown so as we return to work we need to make sure that we keep a weather eye on the cash in our bank.

Dealing with debtors will need to be handled sensitively as it is likely that they will have their own issues and so credit control procedures will probably need to be amended but remember that the cash is better in your bank account than theirs.

Think also about getting a better solution for taking payment. The UTP group have some excellent methods of taking card payments, such as card machines and virtual terminals [ and these are important as handling cash is something to be avoided at all costs.

Having an excellent method that is hooked up to your website or webshop will pay dividends but one thing you do need to be careful of is that many merchant services companies will hold on to the cash for quite some time before it hits your bank account.

Again, the cash is better in your bank than the merchant provider and this is where the UTP Group scores highly because they are able to provide payments on the same day in most cases.

Having sensible cash management techniques will probably be the difference between companies coming out of lockdown in good order or going to the wall.

Communicate with your customers

When you are almost ready to open up then begin communicating with your customers.

Let them know about all of the precautions you have been taking to ensure their safety and give them forewarning of any changes that you are making to your operating procedures.

Ask them for their help. You’ll find that customers will be loyal to a business that communicates effectively and tells them in a transparent manner why service standards might have to slip to cope with the new ways of working.

There’s good evidence that people are desperate to return to something that is approaching normality so speaking to your customers and letting them know your opening plans in advance will pay dividends when you can open your doors once again.

In summary – agility is the key

No-one is pretending that coming out of lockdown is going to be easy but with a little thought, a bit of preparation and some investment in physical infrastructure you’ll find that the situation can be managed.

Being a company that is agile enough to understand what is needed and come up with creative solutions to the issues that you face will mean that you’ll come out of lockdown better than your competitors.

Remember to keep an eye on cash flow and keep your customers informed about developments.

If you use our tips, you’ll find that you can manage the process of a slow return to normality and your business will go from strength to strength.

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