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Reopening small businesses across the United States won’t be a “lights on” situation. Think more like a dimmer switch. Each industry will reopen through a series of phases that comply with specific rules established by the state. These phases allow small businesses to open their doors while committing to the public health and safety of customers.

In our three-part series on small business reopening and recovery, we’ll be taking a closer look at what it means to safely reopen a business, for business, after an extended lockdown period. Our first post, part one, takes a closer look at how storefronts can safely reopen. It’s not nearly as simple as unlocking the door, turning on the lights, and switching the “closed” sign to “open.” Navigating a reopen in the new normal means following a safety preparation checklist.

The Top 4 Steps Small Businesses Should Prioritize for Safe Reopening

#1 – Receive a Building Assessment from a Professional NORMI Certified IAQ/Mold Assessor

Most individuals, as well as business storefronts, practiced safety and shelter in place measures for several months. If a small business kept their HVAC shut off and had no ventilation in the space, it is entirely possible that the building could develop structural mold and bacteria since the owner has been away.

Before reopening to anyone, including customers and employees, small business owners must receive a building assessment from a professional in the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors (NORMI). A NORMI Certified IAQ/Mold Assessor can detect if there is any presence of mold and possible IAQ contaminants. Post evaluation, they may share this information with the small business owner and discuss further steps for how to reduce any outstanding mold or bacteria.

#2 – Hire a Certified Sanitizing Professional (CSP)

After consulting with a NORMI professional for a building assessment, it’s equally as important to consider the possibility of airborne bacteria and surface microbial loads. Again, this is particularly key if nobody has returned to the business since it was initially shut down and there was no ventilation in the space.

The best way to make this determination is by hiring a certified sanitizing professional (CSP). You may find a CSP through NORMI — and even take an online CSP course. This provides small business owners with the tools necessary to understand air filtration and purification maintenance and how ongoing sanitizing processes help to reduce indoor air and surface microbial loads.

Train Employees on New Sanitation and Distancing Policies

Reopening for business means training employees to welcome customers back to their stores. Many customers may be hesitant to return — even if they are truly excited to see your storefront back open again.

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It’s important that your team understands new policies as they pertain to sanitation and distancing guidelines. Here are a few items that employees will need training on before the storefront reopens.

  • Employee safety measures. Employees must wear masks and gloves as they work. A wellness check, including getting their temperature taken, should be conducted before entering the workplace.
  • Store hours. What will they look like? Will there still be a reserved hour for seniors to shop or make an appointment?
  • Additional in-store safety measures. Will you need to install Plexiglass physical barriers at registers? Will you only accept credit cards instead of cash? Are there going to be visible sanitation stations for guests? What about tape on the floor to emphasize the rule for six feet of social distancing?
  • Signage. You may decide to create signs, alongside your employees, that detail some of the rules for guests to follow prior to entering the storefront. Some non-negotiable rules will include wearing a mask at all times and maintaining six feet of social distance from other shoppers. The signage your storefront creates should also emphasize what your business is doing to ensure the sanitation of the shop and safety of its guests. Some businesses may not offer services that they previously did, such as a beverage bar at a beauty salon, in order to comply with phase reopening and safety guidelines.
  • Behavior. As everyone readjusts to the new normal, customers may have questions or concerns they’d like to address. Make sure your team is trained in how to answer common questions and is at the ready to help out. Everyone should be kind, friendly, and respectful of each guest.

Continue Offering Curbside and Delivery Options

Did you start a popular curbside pickup service during quarantine that customers loved? What if you have a drive-thru that customers frequented to get what they needed? In the early phases of reopening for business, customers may be hesitant to fully return to your storefront. However, they may still be interested in the initiatives you provided during lockdown.

Make sure you are still able to offer the ability for customers to order from you through a variety of different ways. If not physically present in the store, keep implementing:

  • Take out that individuals may order ahead for pickup.
  • Curbside pickup that allows you to bring the customer’s order to their car.
  • Delivery options through popular apps like Postmates and Instacart.
  • Drive thrus (if you have access!) for convenient order placement and pickup.

Keep in mind this is not a comprehensive, full list of requirements as they pertain to your business’s phase of reopening. Check in with your state, depending on the industry you’re in, for a full list of safety preparation guidelines.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.

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