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Michael Bosma: Successfully re-opening your business (Voices)

Michael Bosma

Covering Your Assets

Michael Bosma
Courtesy photo

Nevada Gov. Sisolak’s announcement on May 7 to reopen a portion of the state’s economy by May 9 surprised many business owners.

I have said often that the current business environment is “fluid.” Last Monday, my wife Jill and I were excited to jump back into the Reno dining scene. We headed to Midtown Eats, where we ran into the Queen of Midtown, Jessica Schneider.

I had seen on social media that she had re-opened her store, Junkee Clothing Exchange, on May 9. I asked how it went. Her responses prompted me to invite her as a guest on the May 16 installment of Bosma on Business (which airs Saturday at 10 a.m. on Newstalk 780 KOH).

It also reminded me that it is more important than ever for business owners to clearly communicate expectations — both with their team and their customers.

Accordingly, I have broken down the decisions into the following four buckets:

Bucket #1: What does the law say?

What does the federal, state and local governments have to say about your particular business?

Right now, the Health Department is a great resource. Many business owners have embraced the idea that they would apologize rather than ask permission.

This is one of those times that you want to ask permission. It doesn’t mean you will get an answer, but the government has been fairly Draconian in levying fines. This can often be mitigated if you had done your homework, and asked for guidance, and didn’t get any, rather than simply winging it.

Bucket #2: What does your team say?

Generally, your employees have a very broad range of emotions and opinions on the whole COVID-19 “thing.”

Some are completely apathetic and believe this is a giant waste of time and resources — that it is just a derivation of the flu that everyone will eventually get, and get over.

Others believe that if they are not responsible now, they may be directly responsible for killing someone. Your role as a business owner is to determine your “truth,” and set a course accordingly.

The good news is that the law will define the safeguards you are required to implement at the workplace — i.e., masks for employees, 6 feet of social distance, etc.

Bucket #3: What do your customers say?

Your customers will have the same broad range of emotions as your employees. This is where things get tricky. Your business has been closed for months. You probably have received your PPP proceeds, and you have 8 weeks to spend 75% of it on payroll.

You want to bring back as much of the team as fast as possible. That generally is a recipe for a business owner to get very flexible with their ethos. This is also when blow-ups happen.

As Jessica explained to me, she had several customers who were “offended” that they were expected to use any social distancing, masks, etc. Others were newly trained epidemiologists (they saw it on YouTube) and took it upon themselves to train her staff on how they were risking lives by their loose sanitization protocols.

I have taken some liberties to make a point. As a business owner, you need to decide if your customers are required to wear a mask. You also need to decide what the protocol is for customers who are not following the rules.

I recommend that these policies be reduced to writing, run by your HR adviser or attorney, and then publicized. When I went to Costco over the weekend, I heard on the news that they were requiring masks for everyone.

They had them at the door for those people that didn’t have one. They decided what their plan was, and then they executed the plan. It helped reduce stress on the frontlines.

I am also sure that there have been myriad altercations, but they were willing to take a stand based on what they believed. In this case, everyone needs a mask.

Bucket #4: What do you say?

While I cannot say with certainty what the business landscape will look like after the dust settles, I do believe it will never get back to the way it was before the shutdown.

You may not like the “new normal,” but I encourage readers to consider what authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans — in the book, “Designing Your Life” — describe as a ”gravity” problem.

They say that you can complain all you want about gravity, and that it makes it harder to ride your bike up hill. Since you can’t change it, accept it and move on. If it’s not actionable, it’s not a problem.

Focus your energy and efforts on what you can control. This will help you re-imagine your business model to something that you enjoy, which hopefully becomes the “new-normal.”

Michael Bosma, CPA, is Principal-in-Charge of the Reno office of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP. His NNBW column, “Covering Your Assets,” focuses on effective planning strategies for every business owner. Reach him for comment at mike.bosma@claconnect.com.