Business Strategies During Changing Times

playing chessBy Mary Piasta

As states and municipalities are taking initiatives on their own, regardless of Federal intervention, business closure orders are nothing new right now. But as this is the second time this has happened in our county, there are now many examples of how businesses have pivoted to modify their operations to stay open during this time.

Before we get to that, the recent closure order requires high-risk businesses to close.  The lists of businesses included are salons, theaters, wineries and indoor-dining.

Indoor service is the theme here.  If businesses are able to offer services outside, then there are considerations for staying open.

To stay open, business would be wise to take a peek at the required mitigation measures.  These vary by county and operate within overlays at the state and federal level.

In Sonoma County, the mitigation measures fall into three main areas that are: preventative planning for safety and health to minimize in person interactions, ongoing monitoring of health and safety and continuing follow through.

In addition to these, employment lawyers will advise on best practices to ensure that employers are able to document and track everything they’re doing on this front, especially the measures to follow-through and comply.

The good news is by this second round of closures there are numerous examples of how businesses have pivoted to address these mitigation measures by creating risk assessment plans and implementing them.

This starts with looking at potential risks, creating policies for employee and customer safety, educating employees and customers, and following through with protocols to do so.

Gyms – for example, Sonoma County has examples of how gyms have pivoted to accomplish the three areas of concern.

Parkpoint offers on-line classes and Sonoma Fit owner Jennifer Kovacs has gone to extensive effort to create an outdoor socially distanced gym!

Developing this has been no easy task, as Kovacs explains. “Being the owner of a membership based business presents it’s own unique challenges. We weren’t able to just put a sign on the door and close up shop. We’ve had to justify our monthly membership dues in order to keep our business running and our employees paid. Like many fitness businesses, the first step we took was to create online content via YouTube, Zoom and our own SoFit TV channel. This has kept members engaged and prevented many from freezing or canceling.”

Restaurants – Another incredible example here in Sonoma County is Sondra Bernstein’s efforts with her restaurants and catering company the Girl and Fig.

Offering outdoor dining and increasing partnerships with wineries to a provide food options. This was a challenge as Bernstein said. “We could have never imagined a time in our 23 years of business where we have changed just about everything that we have so carefully created. We are trying just about everything that makes the slightest bit of sense. Not everything has worked, Bernstein added. But it won’t stop us from trying.”

Commenting further on how the “Secure In Place” closures made an impact on gyms and health clubs, Kovacs pointed out. “This second round of closures really blindsided us. But at least we were somewhat prepared. The ability to run outdoor operations is less than ideal but once again, said Kovacs we are able to keep members active and hopefully retain a good portion of our membership base.”

Similarly, Mary Alice Jambon, owner of Sonoma Gymnastics Academy has had to completely evolve and adapt her business by

“Shifting the business model to accommodate the new reality (of COVID-19). And pivot to make things work is crucial she added.  No stranger to challenges, since 2014 Jambon has kept her gymnastics academy going despite having to move at least twice in the past six years since she began. “I encourage businesses to look 15 to 20 years out as they consider closing, noted Jambon.

Music – Creativity abounds with how musicians are recreating ways to jam.

Resources for Business concerning mitigating business risks:

Business mitigation measures checklist for Sonoma County:…Business-Mitigation-Checklist-English

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