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6 Steps to Formulate a Business Re-Opening Strategy

Recently, I watched a short interview conducted with Robert Herjavec, a Canadian businessman and TV personality (known for his role in Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank) about how businesses, especially small businesses, can survive and thrive amidst COVID-19. Two critical questions that Robert posed to businesses are, “Did your business survive COVID – 19? Did you grow your business during COVID-19?”

Since the public health emergency was announced, in the last three months, I have seen many businesses successfully progressed from their initial “panic” mode, to a “transition” mode. From the beginning of May, as businesses can now gradually re-open, I have seen leaders switch to the “plan-ahead” mode.

“How do we get the business back to normal as quickly as possible?”

“How do we get the business back to normal as quickly as possible?” is the most common question I hear these days. Organizations want to recover from this crisis, which makes “getting back to normal ASAP” seem to be the most obvious next step. However, Robert’s interview questions about not only regarding businesses surviving the pandemic but also growing during the pandemic, prompted further reflection on my part concerning optimal ways of returning to some semblance of normalcy. As we are planning for re-opening, the focus should not just be on the “what” (what we need to do to rush back), but more importantly, on the “why” (why we want to be back in business) and “how” (how to ensure continued success).

A suggested six-step return to business strategy is presented below. Both paths beneath will get your organization back in action, but their effectiveness will differ.

shop open sign
Business Open Signage

The “What” Focused Organization

The “Why” & “How” Focused Organization

1. Work Planning

  • Now that we can re-open, what functions will be resumed first, second, third and last?

1. Work Planning

  • Before we re-open, what have we learned from this crisis? What did we do well? What do we need to improve upon?

  • Let’s review our mission, vision and strategic plan; are we going to carry out our business the same way or in a different way?

  • Based on the above reflections and analyses, what business objectives do we want to achieve in 1, 3, 6, and 12 months? Which functions will be resumed first, second, third and last?

2. Workforce Planning

  • Based on our cashflow and the functions we need to resume, how many workers do we need?

  • Who will notify the workers (the workers who were laid off, on reduced hours, or working remotely)?

  • Let’s send out a group email.

2. Workforce Planning

  • To achieve the business objectives as planned above, who can get the work done? Is it our current workforce? How many workers do we need?

  • What is the contingency plan if the current workforce cannot fully return to work (due to illness, family responsibilities, fear for their safety at the work site, their reluctance to abandon the relative security of the CERB or EI benefits, etc.)

  • Workers have been overwhelmed by information in the past three months, how should the workers be notified? Who should do it? What are the best methods?

3. Task Planning

  • Workers get tasks delegated from the top down.

  • Workers’ performance will be measured by a traditional method (i.e. attendance, incident rate, productivity, etc.)

  • Managers will troubleshoot to get operations back while managing workers as before the pandemic.

  • Designated people will notify the customers that we are back in business.

3. Task Planning

  • Workers will initially be engaged in various communications with business leaders to learn about the changes in the workplace and the rationale. Feedback will be solicited.

  • Since managers will be occupied with restoring operations and implementing changes, employees will be encouraged to take the initiative and problem solve independently. Results will determine performance effectiveness.

  • Intentional two-way communications between managers and employees will be inspired.

  • Designated people will connect with customers via multiple platforms, but client-facing employees are the best ambassadors of our brand. Let’s not forget to collaborate with vendors, suppliers and other stakeholders.

4. OH&S (Occupational Health & Safety) Planning

  • What does the law require us to do?

  • What PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) should we distribute? What control measures do we need to ensure staff and customers’ health and safety (i.e. separation of workstations, staggered shifts, rotation of remote working, reminder posters, training, policies, separation of people when using washroom / lunchroom / elevator, PPE, professional cleaning vendor hired, etc.)?

4. OH&S (Occupational Health & Safety) Planning

  • How do we use this opportunity to engage workers through an elevated approach to both physical safety and psychological well-being?

  • What control measures do we need to put in place (i.e. workplace contact tracking, peer monitoring in the workplace, separation of workstation, staggered shifts, rotation of remote working, reminder posters, training, policies, separation of people when using washroom / lunchroom / elevator, PPE, professional cleaning vendor hired, etc.)?

5. Evaluation & Adjustment

  • Evaluate how we are doing after a period. We will make changes when there are bad results.

  • “No news is good news.”

5. Evaluation & Adjustment

  • Take an iterative approach - ongoing assessment, getting stakeholders’ feedback and adjusting.

  • No two-way communications are bad news.

6. What’s Next

  • Let’s hope for the best.

6. What’s Next

  • Let’s get our Business Continuity Plan (BCP) up to speed and be ready for the 2nd wave of the pandemic or another crisis in the future.

Crisis situations are “stress tests” of business resiliency and its leadership. What organizations do now will have a huge impact on the workers’ trust and engagement, and the forthcoming prosperity of the business. Planning for “what” to do to get business to effectively re-open is important, but the focus should also be on the “why” and the “how”.


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