Can Reopened Businesses Survive Coronavirus Policies
After months of social distancing there has been a drive to re-open businesses in America. In order to open and operate safely businesses have to reinvent their business model, processes and policies for the coronavirus. While innovation is good can businesses really tolerate the inefficiencies these policies create?
Many businesses have a profit margin that does not leave a huge amount of room for error. Any change to their business structure that increases costs or decreases sales can put the business into jeopardy. The types of changes businesses are having the make for coronavirus can do both at once.
My trip to the dentist
My dentist re-opened their business and I went in for a cleaning. Upon arrival there was a sign on the door not to enter. I had to text a number to be entered into a queue. This means the dentist had to invest in queue software to move their waiting room out to the parking lot.
The dentist had hired a person whose job was to go to the parking lot with a sign to get the next person in the queue. This person was literally just walking back and forth. They would get you from your car and walk you to the new hand washing and checkin station by the door.
At this station they would make you wash your hands, take your temperature, test your oxygen, ask you a series of questions, give you a mask to wear, and have you wash your hands again. They would then bring you into the office for your normal visit checkin.
After you took care of any payment details she escorted you to your chair. Once there you had to wash your hands again using new touchless faucets they had installed in the rooms. You also had to gargle with a new special mouthwash for killing the coronavirus.
When my hygienist finally got to see me, around half an hour after I arrived, she had to repeat the line of questioning before she could do her normal work. She now had a face shield and had to use different tools because the normal tools could expel water vapor. The end result was it took her longer than normal.
How much did all of this change really cost?
By my count, these are the things that the dentist office did that increased their cost of doing business:
- the queue software
- a dedicated runner to bring people in from the parking
- a hand washing station
- masks for all customers
- touchless faucets
- special mouthwash
- face shields
This is only half of the tale though. All of this process also slowed down the rate at which they could serve a customer. My normal 45 minute visit took around 1.5 hours. I asked my hygienist how many patients she could see a day and she said 8 or so down from 11 or 12 before.
If her numbers are accurate then that is an over 30% drop in customers, which should be roughly a 30% drop in revenue as well, that the office must bear while simultaneously raising their fixed costs just to do business in this new era.
Businesses, particularly small businesses, are generally not built to withstand significant cost increases and revenue decreases simultaneously. Re-opening our local businesses is only half of the battle. We also need to get them back to a point where they can turn a profit or we risk losing them still.
There may be some positives to the coronavirus, but the new policies and processes forced onto small businesses is not one of them. I know this story is largely anecdotal but I have heard of similar process changes from friends on finance, medicine, insurance, and banking.
If we are not careful with coronavirus policies, we will re-open our businesses only to watch them lose money until they fail.