Like nearly every other business owner and employee across the world right now we've got an eager eye on “reopening.”  While I'd love to think that there will be a magic switch that gets flipped and suddenly we are open for business, I just don't see it happening that way.  

In all likelihood we are in for a long and multi-phased easing of shelter-in-place and social distancing. There will be two or three phases of “re-opening” and some of these protocols will last forever. It is probable that the list of essential businesses will get added to and augmented.  Each sector will likely have its own requirements and recommendations.  Some of this will be mandated by various entities while other will be suggestions.  In some areas it may be a free-for-all with careless procedures. 

Those things we have very little control over.  What we can control is how we choose to open our own businesses.  What I feel is most important in that effort is trust and safety.  Today, those go hand in hand.

What protocols will you need to put into place?

There will be two or three phases of “re-opening” and some of these protocols will last forever.  Will your company have a multi-phase approach?  Will you follow CDC guidelines?  For many industries there will be strict requirements, but your job does not end there. There is a choice about how to act on those guidelines. That choice will be the difference between success and failure.  Unless you're in the lucky percentage of businesses that are actually thriving in this mess, the market will be extremely competitive in the next few quarters.

In an ongoing effort to support our local restaurants I visited two of my go-to eateries last week.  Both are abiding by the San Diego Guidelines but the experiences were markedly different. 

Establishment 1:
 The staff went to some effort to follow safety protocols. They all sported haphazard looking homemade masks. The employees had a casual attitude and made jokes about the new safety measures. It was OK and might be just as safe as any other place to choose.

Establishment 2:
I was greeted at a window and asked to line up in the marked area. It was immediately clear there were gloves, masks in place, visible cleaning products and clear separation between staff.  The interaction was professional, assertive yet friendly and I knew just what to do. While checking out the cashier was ready and wiped down the card reader before and after my transaction.  I was directed to wait in another area marked with tape. A food runner, also in a mask and gloves delivered by food.

While both are compliant, I will, certainly go back to #2.  I felt safe, cared for and know they are doing everything they can to keep their staff and customers safe. There was a level of leadership and authority that I was happy to interact with. I will also be supporting the restaurant with word of mouth support as to their measures. 

Once you have your protocols set it’s time to create a communications plan around it.   Your customers will be delighted to know what your plans are and what’s to come. By sharing what your “phase 2” and “fully open” looks like, you are offering them a chance to imagine themselves shopping with you in the future and get the opportunity for that future to look positive.

What are the asks you have for your customers or clients?

Is there anything you need to ask of people who plan on doing business with you to keep your employees and other customers safe?  We are now in a 2-way world and customers need to accommodate your protocols in order to keep our communities healthy.  By now, you should have a clear idea of what you will be doing to keep everyone healthy.  So get clear on what you need your customers to do in order to fulfill those protocols.  Put the necessary steps and communications into place to make that clear.  Maybe it’s training for your staff, signage, email communications.  Whatever it is, make it clear.

This will create a safe environment for your employees and customers but it also has the added benefit of sharing how serious you are about keeping everyone's well-being in mind. That goes a really long way to building trust and ensuring repeat business.

We would love to hear your thoughts and solutions.  This is an amazing opportunity to collaborate and work together to build the communities we want to be a part of.