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Reopening After COVID-19 With a Business Continuity Plan


| By Alex Greig | October 12, 2020

Australian states all have a recovery plan in place, so it's time for small businesses to develop a business continuity plan for their return after coronavirus.

Create a business continuity plan to reopen after COVID lockdown restrictions ease

It’s been a hard year for many of Australia’s small- and medium-sized businesses, with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic coming on the tail of devastating bushfires. Now that restrictions are easing and states have a roadmap out of lockdown in place, business owners who have shuttered their businesses or pivoted to cope with the crisis are now considering a return to business – but perhaps not as usual. Here's how to come up with your own business continuity plan for a post-COVID world.

Deciding When to Reopen

How you can use a business continuity plan to reopen after COVID lockdown restrictions

The right time for a business to reopen depends on the current restrictions in place in your particular state and region, and the type of businesses you’re running. For example, if you own a beauty or nail salon in NSW, you can only have one person in every four square metres of space. This includes both staff and customers, and with a maximum of 10 customers, so you’ll need to evaluate whether this makes it viable to reopen, or if it’s better to wait until restrictions have eased further.

Check your state government website for full details: New South Wales; Victoria; Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia; Tasmania; Australian Capital Territory; Northern Territory.

Erin Cantley, massage therapist and owner of Aroma Zen Therapies in Sydney’s Bardwell Park, closed her business for five weeks. As the business is part of the health and wellbeing sector, Aroma Zen was considered an essential service and given permission to reopen the doors in May. “But I chose to remain closed for another two weeks,” she says. “There was a lot of COVID-19 testing in the Inner West at that time so I used those two weeks to come up with a COVID-safe plan before there even was a COVID-safe plan.”

The Sausage Factory in Sydney's Dulwich Hill reopened as soon as restaurants in New South Wales got the go-ahead. “We have been operating with social distancing, two nights a week instead of five, in two sessions a night,” says co-owner Chrissy Flanagan. “To make it work, we’ve focused our menu and now offer a banquet menu to everyone, which cuts down on waste.”

“The tougher part was working out how to work, and customers adjusting to that change. We love how it’s working, and even when social distancing is lifted, we won’t change a thing except opening up a few more seats.”

Reopen With a Little Fanfare

SME guide to using business continuity plan to reopen after COVID lockdown restrictions

Many small business owners have been heartened by support from customers who have joined mailing lists, followed social media accounts and patronised their favourite businesses in any way possible during lockdown. Use all channels available to communicate with customers and potential customers and make sure they feel safe patronising your business.

“During my time off, I was using social media to be a positive beaming light, trying to spread happiness and telling everyone what was happening in the clinic via social media," says Cantley.

Update your business website and social media channels so your reopening dates and COVID protocols are the first thing visitors see. Next, create a series of posts for your various social platforms and push them out regularly in the lead-up to your reopening and during the first few weeks. If you have the ability to, a newsletter stating your reopening plans sent to your entire subscriber list will help get the message out to the right people.

If other nearby businesses are on the road to reopening, consider banding together for a grand open house. Retail stores, fitness studios, galleries and other SMEs could throw open the doors one evening for locals to explore. Offer drinks, nibbles and VIP shopping discounts and customers can walk around the area – you might even get some brand-new clients.

SEE ALSO: How One Small Business Grew During COVID-19 Lockdown

Plan Ahead for Christmas

If your business has been closed for an extended period, it's likely the supply chain has come to a halt. And if there are a number of businesses all reopening at the same time, chances are there will be shortages and ongoing challenges.

Prepare for busy periods such as Christmas and New Year now. Work into your business continuity plan exploring supply chain options and ordering well in advance of reopening. Business this year might not resemble other Christmases, so be conservative until you have an idea of the kind of demand to expect.

Reset Your Mindset

How to use a business continuity plan to prepare for reopening as COVD restrictions ease

Even businesses unable to reopen right now can do plenty in preparation for the green light – and beyond. “During the shutdown, I put energy I wouldn’t usually have had into adapting and evolving," says Cantley. “I came up with new products, implemented a home-delivery service and delivered packages personally. I used social media to generate retail business in the absence of face-to-face appointments.”

Cantley also implemented new measures to help if there’s ever another crisis. Her receptionist can now work from home, with full access to Cantley’s emails, the bookings system and the website, while the onsite counsellor shifted to Zoom appointments.

“Financially, I’ve always safeguarded the business because I am a sole trader, but that’s become even more important now,” she says. “I’m lucky that my clients are extremely loyal and trusting of my business and they respect the decisions I have made and will continue to make for their wellbeing and health.”

For Flanagan, the pandemic has been a chance to re-evaluate. “This has been an opportunity for the hospitality industry to reset expectations with customers, and find a model that is more sustainable than pre-pandemic,” she says. “During this time we decided to stop manufacturing sausages for distribution into supermarkets and restaurants in order to focus on our booming brewing business, Sausage Queen Brewing. These are difficult but positive and sustainable changes.”

SEE ALSO: Positive Business Changes to Make Due to COVID

Bring Your Staff up to Speed

Rehiring, recruiting and retraining are going to be part of many businesses’ journey to reopening. Whether you’re rehiring staff or bringing in new recruits, you’ll need to ensure they’re all trained in new COVID-safe policies and processes.

If you can, minimise or stagger essential employees and allow others to work from home; over time you’ll be able to increase the number of employees in the workplace. For the employees who are required at the workplace, ensure you have adequate supplies for their protection such as masks, soap, gloves and cleaning products.

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