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Business Adaptation for Re-Opening
May 19, 2020, is the official date of Phase One of British Columbia's business opening, now that the full force of the Covid19 virus has waned. With provincial safety protocols governing the “new normal”, business leaders in New Westminster businesses discussed how they were going about implementing these protocols at the latest local Chamber of Commerce virtual Town Hall on May 13th, hosted by CEO Rnold Smith.
With safety plans that now need to include measures such as enhanced cleaning, physical distancing, personal protective equipment and new layout features, the guest panel representing a variety of businesses talked about the protocols that they were putting in place. The Guest Panel included Clara Kovatz of Urban Bliss Spa, Trudi Goels of Ablaze Services (Business Management Consultation), Ghalib Rawji and Hitesh Panchal of the Sapperton District Taphouse, Anita Dunn of Mila & Paige clothing store and Susan Greig of 100 Braid Street Art Studios.
While many business owners were instituting standard features that customers have already become used to, such as plexiglass shields at cash counters, continual cleaning of commonly touched services, masked staff, they offered plenty of unique, not-as-well known ideas. For example, at Mila and Paige, the clothing store, customers were told on entry that any clothes that they tried on would stay in the dressing room overnight so no virus was transferred. Clara Kovatz of Bliss Spa asked customers to fill out a Covid19 self-assessment form provided by the provincial government in advance. The Sapperton District Taphouse were going to request that customers fill out 'contact tracing information form' in case a Covid19 case led back to their place. They also were serving draft beer in cans, and having customers clean off their recyclable dishes after eating. These were just a few of the plethora of ideas.
Communicating with clients was also a key aspect of the hour-long discussion. How were businesses letting their clients know about their safety protocols and their expectations of the customers, and at the same time, reassure them that patronizing their business would be safe and pleasant? Some of the panelists said that they communicated verbally with customers on their entering their businesses, others used their website, blogs and social media, while others relied on signage. Susan Greig of 100 Braid Street Studios said that she used Eventbrite ticketing for her events such as “paint and sip” nights and two days in advance the organization sent out the tickets via email, which also outlined safety protocols. She, personally, didn't have to do anything.
Signage got considerable play in the discussion; Alan Brown from Speedpro in New Westminster, which makes signs, says that from their experience, signage has to be very direct – perhaps including sanctions – to actually get people's attentions. Grieg laughed that the sign on the front door of her large artist studio says “Do Not Enter” - not usual business practise – but told customers to phone and they would be met at the door. Rnold Smith suggested that business owners get their best customers to provide reviews that covered not only their excellence as businesses but their concern for Covid19 safety and their fastidiousness as a way to reassure other customers.
For anyone confused about safety protocols, Trudi Goels, Management Consultant, reminded people that Fraser Health Authority was where to go to get the right information. And looking at the silver lining, Ghalib Rawji said that in some ways this Covid19 event is a bit of a gift because it gives owners the opportunity to make shifts in how their business is done without the usual concern of consumer pushback.
For anyone wanting to get the full discussion of business ideas, check out NewWest.tv under Chamber of Commerce, episode, Business Adaptations.
By: Susan Millar
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