What’s it like to re-open?
I’ve been asked this question fairly regularly over the past week. Some people are concerned for us, others curious, and the rest likely think it’s what they should be asking right now. Whatever the case... thank you for asking!
For us, the re-opening was hardly a ‘back to work’ moment. Stephanie and I - along with sidekick Cassandra - have been working as much, if not more than ever, during this crisis. Everything takes longer, is less impactful and seems to take more brain power than it used to.
We spent a lot of time planning for re-opening. You can’t plan for everything, but you can have procedures in place and do your best to communicate them to your team and your customers. That has been our focus. It has been wonderful having our team members start coming back to work. We’ve missed them - whether they’ve worked for us for months and years, or in the case of our team in Fergus only a few days before closure. It’s also been so nice to see and hear from so many of our wonderful customers!
What are the customers like? This question, when asked, tends to be a way of asking what to expect when coming to the store. I’ve been working out of Fergus as we get our location there going, but checking in with the team in Erin usually a few times a day. We have been significantly limiting public access and have put in place quite a few what I think are reasonable precautions, and by and large customers both inside and outside of our stores have been cooperating. Like everywhere, there are those that feel it’s all over or doesn’t impact them and any precaution is excessive, there are those that are very nervous and hesitant to come into a store - and most people are somewhere in between. We are aiming to keep everyone - no matter where they are at in that spectrum - as comfortable with our environment as possible, and hopefully are being successful with that. It has certainly been wonderful to be able to focus on customer service in person again.
On that note, there is of course the ‘wonderful’ Facebook groups replete with conversation about reopening. I follow quite a few in both communities and there are a lot of opinions, and I have no intention of ‘going there’ on the topics of masks or anything else. All I will say is could we please recognize that businesses are REQUIRED to have precautions and procedures in place to be allowed to be open. If we don’t have them in place and do what we can to ensure they are executed, we are not allowed to be open. It’s that simple.
That being said we can only do so much in terms of enforcement. We need you to help us to stay open. How? Pretty simple... I don’t care if there are markings and posters or not, PRACTICE PHYSICAL DISTANCING. We have markings here in our stores to help but it’s not possible to have them in all places throughout the community or even at all businesses... but let’s be honest, I really think we can figure out keeping at least 6 feet apart to respect one another, whether there are marks on the ground or not.
Aside from that a lot of our energy is about trying to stay focused on the long game. Early in the crisis we recognized this was going to take a financial toll and secured access to a fairly significant amount of additional business debt so we can carry through the short term while ensuring that our team, suppliers and other financial obligations are met. We just have to hope and plan that we can get revenues back in balance with expenses. If this drags on long term we - like many, many other businesses - won’t have the debt capacity to survive.
What’s next? I cycle between cautious optimism and pessimistic planning. Sometimes I think it’s time to schedule the team all the way until July, other times I’m thinking about what we’re going to do if that scale back order comes and we have to close, as the numbers continue to climb.
Most importantly, let’s all stay healthy and safe!