Creating your 2021 COVID Plan
Well, it looks like COVID19 and the fallout is here to stay for awhile. Even with the roll out of vaccines, we're in the midst of new stay-at-home orders and experts are advising that it may take years for us to resume “normal” lives and that means ongoing flow through effects.
The wedding, tourism and hospitality industries continue to face ever-changing laws, closures, reduced capacity and interruptions. These industries have been hit particularly hard with cancellations, and clients rescheduling one or two years down the road. It makes it hard for business owners to be able to plan not just their schedules, but cash flow and future growth.
This is something that I’ve been helping my clients navigate in my law firm since March 2020. If you haven’t already, it’s more important than ever to review your contracts and policies and make sure you and your business are proactive and protected.
Make a Plan.
The first step is always to make a clear plan and take the steps you need to ensure you have guidelines and a strategy in place. Hindsight is 20/20 (or in this case, actually, 2020). What issues came up? What were pain points for you and your clients?
Make changes to your your policies and contracts to reflect how you want and need to do business going forward and check-in with them periodically.
Many COVID policies were born out of a reaction to all that was going on around us. There was so much uncertainty and unknown but a year later, we have more knowledge.
For example, what are your policies for cancellation and rescheduling? Are your deposit and refund policies clear? Think about the issues that have popped up and take the action now to address those in your contracts.
Next up is safety. The pandemic has shown businesses around the world the importance of having a clear health and safety plan. Ensure your clients know the precautions you have taken, what your plans are to safeguard their health and your expectations from them.
For instance, will you still perform the services if the number of guests at the wedding exceed what is legally allowed? If not, make sure your policy is clear in your contract and that it is clear what happens to any deposit or payments already collected.
It’s crucial to keep up to date with local restrictions and policies as they change almost daily. Let your clients know how you will contact them if changes need to be made in light of updated policies. Update your contract with your COVID policies where needed and let your clients know these are in keeping with the requirements of your province and local orders.
Force Majeure: The hottest legal term of 2020.
This is still an important clause to have in your contract, should something unexpected arise that wasn't contemplated at the time the contract was entered into. Unfortunately, we all are aware of Covid and now, it's not even out of reach to think that another global pandemic is out of reach (ugh...I know). Any party who entered into a contract post March 2020 will likely not be able to rely on the Force Majeure clause as a reason to not perform its obligations under that contract.
We all know about COVID and it is reasonable to expect it will impact our business. Looking forward, we all have our fingers and toes crossed that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again, but we need to be open to the possibility and plan accordingly.
Make your policies work for your business
As COVID continues, you’re going to have to make policies that work for your business. This might mean having a strict no cancellation or rescheduling policy for clients or if for whatever reason, the services can't be performed as a result of COVID.
As a business owner, you need to be able to plan and navigate in a way that works for you and your business.
This might not be the most popular opinion, and strict policies might seem harsh at first glance, but people are still planning their events and trips in light of the pandemic are voluntarily taking that risk.
I think it is unrealistic to think that you should be bending over backwards to accommodate never-ending rescheduling or cancellations for new clients when people are taking that calculated risk.
While in 2020 you may have been more generous with rescheduling and cancellation, it could be time to revisit those (for new clients only) and set stricter policies in place or returning to your previous “no refunds” policy for cancellations, or implementing a rescheduling fee.
A final note
You need to look after your business and ensure that you are protected while ensuring your clients are aware of your policies before working with you, especially if you are in operating in an industry that was hit heavily by COVID. Open communication in conversations with your potential clients and then reinforced in your contracts ensures everyone is aware of the ramifications if things don't go quite a planned, and everyone is on the same page from the start.