Business Owners Speak: Creating a Safe Post-COVID 19 Work Environment

With Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s formal phased-in reopening of non-essential businesses, many North Texas employers are grappling with how to safely conduct business in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We wanted to know what steps Dallas-Fort Worth area business owners are taking to reopen while ensuring a climate of safety and security for employees and customers

We spoke to four North Texas business owners representing an array of industries and business sizes. They include a martial arts studio, a hair salon, a law firm, and a warehouse equipment and service supplier. Here are their first-person accounts of how they’re acclimating to business in the post-COVID-19 era: 

 

Mike Madeley - Business

Mike Madeley

RCJ Machado Jiu-Jitsu School 

5201 South Colony

The Colony, Texas  75056

Employees: 4 full time, 3 part time

I own two jiu-jitsu schools, one in The Colony and the other in San Antonio, and we were able to reopen on May 18. When COVID-19 hit, we began planning and implementing many changes to ensure the safety and well-being of our clients. The silver lining in all this is we’re providing an even better environment for our students by instituting some new rules for doing business:

  • Every client entering our business must get thermo-scanned, and we ask them three questions:

    • Have you been around anyone with COVID-19?
    • Do you have any symptoms of COVID-19?
    • Have you traveled outside North Texas recently?
  • All instructors wear masks
  • Parents and guests are no longer permitted on our premises — only clients and staff are allowed
  • To give parents, grandparents and friends an opportunity to watch, we now broadcast our classes on Zoom
  • We removed all the wood floors in the school to expose stained concrete flooring that is mopped or hosed down with disinfectant throughout the day and every evening. The floors are super clean.
  • Students are asked to bring their own water bottles — instead of using water fountains
  • Students are asked to wear their uniforms in the door — to minimize use of the changing rooms and restroom facilities
  • Maybe most surprising, we’ve instituted a no-contact rule. Believe it or not, jiu-jitsu is even more challenging without touching

 

Milane Sarquis - Business

Milane Sarquis

EMC Hair Salon

9850 N. Central Expressway

Suite 101, Studio 142

Dallas, TX  75231

Employees: 4

My two business partners and I lease two large suites adjacent to one another in a North Dallas area of retail shops called The Hill, and our set-up is proving to be an advantage for us and our clients. We were allowed to re-open on May 8, which gave us plenty of time to plan for new processes and ways of doing business. Our main priority was and always will be providing a safe and healthy environment for our clients.

Our industry is licensed by the state, and we’re required to take continuing education courses in sanitization every two years. So, we’ve always had a huge focus on cleanliness and protecting the client, but now in the age of COVID-19, we’re even more conscious about it.  

We made a number of changes that are working out nicely, and we’re getting great feedback from our clients:

  • We’ve split shifts so that each client has a private space with their stylist — with a one-on-one set-up that allows plenty of space between the client and another client in the opposite suite.
  • We’re sanitizing prior to and after the client leaves, with our assistant alternating between suites throughout the day to avoid clients.
  • Instead of hiding our cleaning supplies as we’ve done in the past, we’re making them visible because it’s giving clients assurance that we’re keeping our space ultra-clean.
  • Our stylists are wearing face masks  and offering masks and hand sanitizer to our clients when they enter our space.
  • We’re now open 7 days a week which allows us to space out clients throughout the week to ensure plenty of social distancing in our salon.
  • Every client gets a fresh towel, cape and smock, and there is no re-use of smocks, for example. Our washer and dryer are rolling all day!

 

Jimmy Shoppa -Business

Jimmy Shoppa

Shoppa’s Material Handling

15217 Grand River Road

Fort Worth, TX  76155

Employees: 420 

I was very fortunate when COVID-19 hit because a doctor friend gave me some good advice: take the pandemic seriously. We began our first-phase changes with the goal of protecting our people and our business. As an essential business, we were never closed, so we made changes while we were working.  

Now it’s clear to me that the workplace changes our team made as a result of COVID-19 are improving our operation and our customer service. I wonder why we didn’t have these procedures in place all along.   

  • We stopped allowing our team to walk through the entire facility to minimize the spread of COVID-19 by a potential carrier of the disease.
  • We partitioned off segments of our business environment to create physical barriers to stop potential spread: People who work in sales and service can pick up what they need to fulfill an order in a remote part of the building rather than walking through the entire warehouse.
  • We were able to secure a medical grade sanitizer, and we put spray bottles of it in workspaces, giving each team member responsibility for cleaning his own space.
  • In addition, we started leaving more doors open in our workspace to minimize the touching of door knobs, and our cleaning crew keeps door knobs and surfaces very clean.
  • We also removed break and lunch room chairs, and reconfigured the spaces to ensure our people would be at least six feet apart from one another.
  • We’ve equipped every technician and delivery driver with sanitizer spray bottles, so they can sanitize their trucks before driving to the customer’s site. Once they get to the customer’s location, they sanitize the forklift before and after servicing it.
  • We’ve placed a priority on communicating with our teams about our safety and well- being protocols — they are our most important asset.

 

John Gage - Business

John Gage

Operations Manager

Black, Mann & Graham LLP

2905 Corporate Circle

Flower Mound, TX  75028

Employees: 154

When we first got news of the coming COVID-19 pandemic, our IT team moved quickly to ensure our people would be safe and that our customers were served well without any interruption in our business. I’m happy to say, we were able to accomplish that with the collaboration of the whole team.

Today we have plans in place to ensure a careful migration back to our corporate offices for team members that wish to return to the workplace:

  • We’ve provided instruction to our training crews for deep disinfection of our work spaces; we’re using the same disinfectant that Southwest Airlines uses to ensure the safety and security of our team.
  • Our cleaning crews are already cleaning our office spaces with new deep-clean disinfection protocols, so they’ll be accustomed to the new procedures when our team members return to the workplace.
  • Our office spaces are pretty generous already — with a six-foot space between them — so our team members will be at least six feet apart when they return to their offices.
  • We’ve ordered hand sanitizer, plexiglass face shields, masks and gloves, and will make these readily available to all employees.
  • We’re also going to begin catering lunch and bringing it in regularly for our team — that allows them to stay in a clean work environment without having to leave our premises.
  • The bottom line for us is we want to ensure the physical and emotional health of our employees. They’re our greatest asset and we’ll always work to protect them.

As you can see, one thing that’s universally true among all of these business owners is that they are taking no chances when it comes to keeping their employees, customers, vendors and visitors safe. What’s more, instead of bemoaning the stress and disruptions inflicted upon their businesses over the past few weeks, they are all viewing this experience as an opportunity to adopt safer business practices. And they all view these new procedures as a good thing, rather than a hindrance, which should provide a sense of reassurance to employees and customers alike. 

The debate about the pace of reopening a battered economy may still have a ways to go, but as these North Texas business leaders are proving, there’s nothing to debate when it comes to ensuring health. 

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