COVID-19 Responsibility and Response as a Small Business Owner: When do I close my doors?

The decisions we are making as small business owners right now are onerous.

Government and community leaders are making difficult decisions now, so someone doesn’t have to decide later ‘who gets the ventilator and who dies.’

Many branches of government are shutting down, schools are being closed, offices are enacting work-from-home strategies, and restaurants/bars are no longer available for drink and dine-in options.

This COVID-19 is a big deal, and an exponential growth curve will prevent access to adequate healthcare to save lives so it is an important issue .

In light of more and more closure mandates coming from government authorities, as small businesses it is imperative to ask: What is the responsibility of a small service or retail establishment in a pandemic? Is it socially responsible to keep my doors open?

I can’t answer that question for you, but here is where we at the Phia Concept family of salons have landed for the time being: As long as we can provide an environment of abundant caution and extraordinary vigilance that drastically minimizes any transmission of COVID-19, remaining open provides an safer option for the subset of the population who will be determined to get the services as long as there is not a closure mandate.

And when I say intentional vigilance, I’m not kidding. Here are three pages of precautionary measures the salons who use Phia Concept Service, Systems, and Support are taking in response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus. They range from sanitation of pens to elimination of magazines and non-cosmetic blowouts, to masks on anyone who has a cough.

What I can do is to provide the following list of considerations and provide some resources that will help you navigate this unprecedented time.

First, though, I will share some strong personal opinions. You need to close your business if: 

  • You’re not willing to let staff stay home if they think they are a risk to others or at risk of grave illness.
  • You’re not willing or able to modify your Facility, Practices, and Services, or
  • You doubt the willingness or ability of your staff to uphold the promises you make to your clients.

Let me be clear: If you choose to stay open and make promises to your clients or customers, it is unthinkable to not deliver on those promises. Not only does your reputation depend on it, but LIVES may depend on it as well!

In choosing to stay open, consider the following:

Facilities

  • Do you have sufficient space to keep guests six feet or more apart? (We are aiming for twelve)
  • If you do not have sufficient space, can you reduce staffing to seat guests separately, leaving empty chairs in between?
  • Do you have or can you get high quality air purifiers that filter down to 0.1 microns in size? (ours do so at 99.97% efficiency)
  • Do you have cameras to be able to monitor practices and ensure promises are being met?

People

  • What type of staff do you have?
    • Are they free spirits or are they accustomed to following protocols?
    • Are they rigorous?
    • Do they follow directions well?
    • Can you generally trust them to do what they commit to?
    • Are they willing to go out of their way to protect clients?
  • Can administrative personnel work remotely?
  • How flexible can you make your leave policies?

Practices

  • Do you have adequate supplies (gloves, sanitizer, cleaner, masks, etc.) to meet all of the commitments you’re making?
  • How can you change your internal practices by eliminating every single unnecessary face-to-face contact in favor of phone or cyber conference?
  • Are you willing to eliminate certain services?
  • Can you reduce the foot-traffic into your salon? (We are requesting that guests reschedule for April if they are willing).

Other Factors

  • Consider your personal health. If you fall into any of the age or disease categories that put you at high risk of death from COVID-19, please do not work.
    • If you do not work, can you trust your staff to follow stringent protective measures without you?
    • Do you have a way to oversee the shop remotely?
  • Do you have staff members who also work at bars or restaurants (who are more likely to be carriers)?

For our part, the decision may be made easier as closures may be mandated soon. I am grateful that here in Ohio, we have a proactive Governor who is being appropriately vigilant and has been working for weeks to reduce contact at the highest impact levels like mass gatherings.

Internally, we are also using a helpful model developed by Thomas Pueyo to determine what steps to take and are reassessing potential closure daily. To find the model scroll to the heading “Risk-Based Model for Triggers” and click “direct link to copy.”  [Please note that this is an office model rather than a retail model. As such, under “employees” we chose to include all of the clients who are in for a week]. With that number, at the writing of this, that model showed that the risk that a staff member or client this week is infected with COVID-19 is around .01%, but we expect that to shift drastically by day.

When the stakes are this high, it is always possible that we’ll look at our choices in retrospect and wish we had not directed clients away. We also may look back and wish we had shut our doors completely. By doing all we can to fully acknowledge consequences (even unanticipated ones) we will at least know we’ve done the very best we can.

No matter what choice you make, let’s increase responsibility and safety faster than this virus can replicate.

©2020 Phia Concept Salons