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Economy

Houston Business Barometer Week 9: Area Companies Look to Reassess Telecom Needs, Office Layout and Size Post-COVID

6/3/20
More than half of area companies say they have recalled some or all of their employees who had been working from home back to the workplace in recent weeks, according to the latest survey from the Greater Houston Partnership.  About 11% of those surveyed said they have recalled all of their employees to the worksite and another 40% say they have yet to recall employees who have been working from home.  Twenty-eight percent of the companies that responded to this week’s Houston Business Barometer survey said their firm’s short-term outlook was better this week than last week. Just 4.6% say their outlook is worse this week.   About 28% of respondents said their operations have been severely impacted by the pandemic, the same as last week. Another 34% report a moderate impact on their operations. Roughly 29% said their revenues have declined since their last billing cycle.  Approximately 36% of companies said they had partially or fully reopened their previously shuttered operations in recent weeks, while another 13% of respondents said they had not yet reopened. About half of respondents reported they never halted operations.  Eighty percent of survey participants to this week’s survey say they did not furlough employees during the shutdown. About 8% said they have recalled all or some of their furloughed employees and 12% said they have not yet recalled any furloughed employees.  Asked what elements of their business they might reassess in response to their COVID-19 experience, the top answers among respondents this week were: telecommuting practices, technology needs, office design and the size of their worksites/offices.  A total of 65 companies responded to the 9th Houston Business Barometer survey conducted by the Partnership between June 1 and 2.  See results from Week 8.     Get information and guidelines on reopening businesses safely from the Partnership's Houston Work Safe Program. Visit the Partnership's COVID-19 Resource page for updates, guidance for employers and more information.  
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Small Biz Insider: How a Downtown Family-Owned Business is Adapting to a Changing Business Landscape

5/28/20
Haig Tcholakian, co-owner, Phoenicia Foods Specialty Foods joined the Partnership’s Small Biz Insider series to share how the downtown specialty grocer has adapted through the various phases of the COVID-19  pandemic and his advice for other small businesses navigating this uncertain time.  Tcholakian and his sister Ann-Marie Tcholakian manage one of the three locations his family operates. Throughout the pandemic, the grocery store has remained operational and MKT Bar, the in-house restaurant and bar known for its karaoke nights and live music, reopened recently with limited capacity.   From the first six weeks after the Stay Home Work Safe order until now, Tcholakian highlights key lessons learned from the store’s experience adjusting to the pandemic measures over time and insights for other small businesses reopening or regaining footing. Here are five takeaways from the conversation with Tcholakian:  Remember what you do well – Your customers shop with you for a reason. Bring that to the forefront of what you are doing now, lead with that and continue to orient your adjustments and new efforts around your core mission.   Understand it’s a learning process – As a business that’s been open the entire time, we figured out most of our processes through trial and error. It took us six weeks to understand what works best for us. There isn’t a one-size fits all approach, but there are certain steps you can take to protect your business, your employees and your customers. Read the Reopen Houston Report, a resource guide containing industry-specific best practices to aid businesses in reopening or expanded their operation and guidance for employers.   Communicate with customers about the measures you are taking – You want customers to feel comfortable in your store and in your place of business. Make sure they are aware of the efforts being taken and how they can participate in the new processes.   Reorient staff to meet new needs – We’ve designated certain staff as “COVID cleaners" who focus on sanitizing door handles, buttons, high traffic areas, counters, etc. Dedicating staff to this effort allows us to be as thorough as possible.   Invest in an online presence – we are currently exploring ways to expand our product selection online. We have a website but because we have thousands of products, it’s been a challenge to house that inventory online. However, it’s going to be crucial to have moving forward and to our future success.  Click here for more COVID-19 resources and guidance for small businesses and sign up for email alerts from the Partnership as the situation develops. To aid companies planning to reopen or expand their operations, the Partnership is sharing Work Safe principles to help businesses protect the health of their employees and customers, minimizing the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus.  The Small Biz Insider is a digital series highlighting the innovative business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders of the greater Houston area who are making a big impact in the small business community. 
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