How Do I Deem My Brand as an “Essential” Business?

Operations & Training

Friday March 27, 2020; 1pm-2pm

How Do I Deem My Brand as an “Essential” Business?

Panelists: Jeff Hanscom / Aaron Lowe / Sherri Fishman / David Hickey

Webinar Summary –

IFA and supplier leaders discussed the regulatory and communications components of deeming your business an “essential” business in light of local and state-mandated business closures. IFA’s Jeff Hanscom outlined the CISA guidance on Essential Businesses, which follows DHS guidelines, and the categories of essential businesses. The panelists then discussed various efforts on behalf of industries that supplement these “essential” businesses to maintain their operations. The panelists also discussed best practices to manage employee and customer response to continue business operations and how to navigate their health and safety.

Key Bullets –

  • Businesses in certain states face closure due to state government mandate that follows CISA Guidance, with some states devising their own categories for essential businesses.
  • There are reputational issues that come into play for businesses that remain open while others close; despite the apparent need, these businesses must pay close attention to public sentiment in the face of the pandemic
  • Businesses that operate along the supply chain of essential businesses are having to make difficult decisions about whether to remain open to support their operations while balancing the safety and health of well-being and customers
  • Communicate your position, and responsibility to serve essential businesses, carefully and compassionately

Full Bullets –

  • CISA Guidance on Essential Businesses (following DHS guidelines) designates the following categories
    • Healthcare/Public Health
    • Transportation and Logistics
    • Food and Agriculture
    • Critical Manufacturing
    • Water and Wastewater
    • Law Enforcement, Public Safety, First Responders
    • Communications and Information Technology
    • Gov. operations and essential functions
    • Energy
    • Hazardous materials
    • Public Works
    • Financial Services
    • Defense
    • Chemical
  • 29 States have ordered non-essential businesses closed
    • Some following CISA
    • Some following their own guidelines, which is where we run into problems
    • Multi-state operations are complex
    • Some cities have closures, but not at the State level
      • Governors have broad police power authority
      • Some are finite duration
    • IFA wants to work with individual businesses to file appeals to state level and city level guidance on non-essential business closure
    • Decision to open is not all that simple for some businesses
      • Just because you’re essential does not mean you have to operate, just that you can
      • There are reputational issues that come into play down the line

  • Sign & Graphics associations
    • MD, PA, and DE have deemed print and related products, printers, and sign shops as essential
    • All the rest have not deemed sign producers as “essential” or “critical” but not “non-essential”
    • While sign makers are not essential, many of the customers of these companies are essential
      • Healthcare facilities & emergency services
      • Restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores, laundromats, banks, liquor stores, auto parts
    • Prove that you are “essential” – make the case to state and local officials that as a supplier to critical and essential businesses you can make this case
    • Have a safety plan in line with CDC guidelines and deeming employees to work on certain business contracts
    • Providing members with a sample affidavit for customer businesses to sign that says that that signage producers are an essential business to their operations

  • Auto-care Association
    • Vehicle Repair as an Essential Service
    • Many initial executive orders were unclear or omitted vehicle repair
    • Education efforts and CISA guidance led to consistency
    • Recognition of importance of repair to emergency vehicles and personal mobility
    • Inclusion of supply chain posed a larger problem
      • Parts are needed and difficulty to source. Parts stores, distributors, retailers need to be opened
      • Example: NJ at first barred any third party repair shop and car stores
    • Current efforts are focused on parts manufacturers
      • Some are open, others are closed
      • Working with CISA to include parts manufacturing in guidance
    • How to remain open is an entirely different thing – working with our members have the resources to help their employees work as safely as possible and how they interact with their customers
    • How essential services work with customers is yet another battle and that companies are struggling with

  • PR: Questions franchisors must ask themselves
    • Is it worth it to deem your business as essential?
    • Are you willing to risk your reputation and the impact that it can have on your business in the future?
    • Do you want customers to view your business as a contributing factor in drawing out the pandemic?
    • Does short-term pain outweigh long-term viability?
    • Consider the possibility that there is a “safety” problem for employees and customers
    • Employees are concerned about the risk of coming into work, and that is a difficult question for an employer to field
      • Responsibility to community and customers; make decisions for human health
      • There is a responsibility in being essential; while taking account for precautions to protect health and safety
    • Pivoting to work with customers in a new way
    • B2B versus B2C differentiation
    • Be transparent in correspondence and requests to employees and customers

There are “fringe” cases that could be deemed essential; varies by geography

Issues with employees and personal concerns about health and safety is a fundamentally different issue. Education and message to employees is important in communicating with employees. Guidelines from franchisor to franchisee to employee

Certain businesses may be deemed “essential” but are certain practices/services offered by the business deemed non-essential?

Lead with awareness that Covid-19 could infect customer and employee while performing a non-essential service even though you’re an essential business – make decisions on what is the most prudent course of action; take responsibility as a business to decide what to do and not do