The Planned Shutdown: Gaining by Losing in Six Helpful Steps

If you're running an established business or even a new one, it's hard to conceive how shutting your doors for even a few days could help your bottom line.

But there are times when a planned shutdown for remodeling a restaurant or upgrading a light manufacturing plant may lead to greater success if done properly.

The following six steps can guide you through the process.

Step One: Have A Vision

Know what you want to accomplish before you put a halt to your business. And by now, we mean thinking through the process entirely. If you're updating the look of your brew pub, have a plan for the redesign right down to the height of the new bar stools.

Benjamin Franklin said, 'by failing to prepare, you're preparing to fail,' and he's dead on when it comes to the planned shutdown. For more inspirational quotes like these, check out 20 Inspirational Quotes on Planning.

To help you with your vision, you should consult with designers, engineers, or other professionals, depending on the scope of your project.

Step Two: Have a Budget

Whether you have enough cash to cover the costs or finance the project, stay true to the budget established. Within the budget, have a contingency fund of between 10% to 20% of the total budget to account for changes and other unplanned expenses.

Your overall budget is your litmus test that every cost will be measured against. When materials, labor, technology upgrades, and other factors are accounted for in your budget, you can begin to see where funds can be saved or redirected.

Step Three: Consult Your Calendar

While there is no perfect time to shut down your business, there are times when it makes more sense to do so. Seasonal businesses have the edge here since downtime is built in. But even businesses that run year-round have peak and slow times.

For retailers, January and February are typically slower, given the preceding holiday rush. Depending on what they're producing and who they're supplying, manufacturers may also slow down during different times of the year.

Step Four: Engage Your Employees

A planned shutdown will impact your staff, but it doesn't mean they'll necessarily have to stop working. You can reduce labor costs by having employees participate in whatever upgrades you have in mind.

If using staff isn't an option, letting employees know how long the shutdown will take is vital. Communicating this should be easy if you plan to pay them at a full or reduced rate throughout the shutdown. If not, it is critical to let them know early enough so they can plan financially.

Step Five: Inform Your Customers, Vendors and Other Key Parties

Once you have a vision, plan, budget and have informed your staff, it's time to let the outside world know. Crafting your message correctly will go a long way toward minimizing questions and uncertainty.

Key points to emphasize are how long you expect to shut down, where to go for news and updates on progress and what contingencies are in place for those who may need your products or services while you're closed.

Communicate these facts to your most valued clients, vendors, and partners via phone call, email, or in-person visit. This will allow you to answer inevitable questions immediately, putting rumors or unknowns to rest.

For customers, social media and your website are excellent platforms to get the word out. Again, cover the key points, and answer posts and questions promptly to mitigate issues.

Step Six: Put Shutdown in Action

There's something ironic about being active in a shutdown but keeping things going is the key to success. For the duration, you're in the business of managing the remodel, renovation, or retooling you've been considering for months or longer.

This may mean being a defacto project manager, accountant, designer—and even a therapist—at different times throughout the process. This means you'll also need to be a full-time caretaker of your own mental and physical health.

To this end, try to keep stress around the shutdown to a manageable level. Reminding yourself that there will be an end to the planned chaos will help. Dreaming about the success of your newly upgraded space won't hurt either.

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