Small business owners have to make many difficult decisions due to the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak. Perhaps no decision is more difficult for small business owners than when to reopen their businesses.
The decision regarding when to reopen a business requires business owners to consider a host of factors, many of which may be beyond their control.
• Local guidelines: While it’s every small business owner’s goal to get back to work or return to normalcy as quickly as possible, that decision is largely up to local government officials. Many areas are taking a gradual approach to reopening their economies while also noting that they could implement new closures if virus numbers start to increase. Business owners must familiarize themselves with their local government guidelines to determine where they fall in the reopening pecking order.
• Long-term consequences: Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have repeatedly sounded the alarm in regard to lifting social distancing measures, including guidelines governing non-essential businesses, too early. Such officials warn that the long-term effects could be considerably more devastating from both a public health and economic standpoint than the short-term effects many businesses have already endured. Business owners must take the potential long-term consequences of reopening into consideration when trying to decide if the time is right to reopen.
• Vendor availability: The interconnected nature of the economy has never been more apparent than over the last couple of months. Business owners who want to reopen must determine if the vendors they rely on are reopening as well. If not, finding new vendors may not be as simple as opening up the phone book. Some vendors are now requiring cash-on-delivery, which can pose additional problems for small business owners who have generated little to no revenue since the outbreak. The status of existing contracts with vendors also must be considered before business owners can begin new relationships with new vendors.
• Safety: The safety of employees and customers is another factor to consider before reopening. Some staff members who have been laid off or furloughed may not be comfortable coming back to work, while customers also may be hesitant to be out in public.
• Post-pandemic consumers: Various economists have noted that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to change consumer habits. While everyone is itching to get out and about, consumers have been forced to adopt new habits while social distancing, and economists predict many of those new habits will become permanent. Small businesses may have to cater to consumers who now prefer products be shipped to their homes, which may require small business owners to more fully embrace e-commerce. Now is a great time for small business owners to determine if they’re ready to make that transition. If not, delaying reopening until e-commerce capabilities are stronger may be the wisest choice for small business owners.
Every small business owner wants the economy to reopen. But each small business owner must consider an assortment of factors before deciding to reopen.