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Opening a Business During a World Pandemic

Wherever you stand when it comes to the details, you can't deny the fact that the novel corona virus has had world wide impact. There's a lot of information and buzz, some of which are fact, some are projections, some are educated guesses, and some are uninformed opinions. So why and how did I open the doors to Feel Damn Good during an ongoing pandemic?

I officially purchased this business days after Texas shut down all non-essential businesses. Maybe that was overly risky, but I saw the value of the long term vision. And I was willing to sit in ambiguity for the time being if it meant I'd have a shot at realizing my vision down the line. Because of this, I took the re-opening precautions seriously. If I'm willing to put money down on a business that I can't open for 8+ weeks, I'm damn sure going to follow the guidelines when I can open so as not to risk being shut down for even longer.

Beyond that, I care deeply about my clients and my work. Otherwise I wouldn't have taken the risk to start this business in the wake of a world pandemic and economic shut down. I know I'm capable of helping many more people than I have had access to previously. But I refuse to do so in a reckless manner. That goes against my virtues. Which is why I wasn't practicing massage against government orders either.

After closing down much of the economy in Texas for about 8 weeks early in the year, Governor Abbott issued re-opening guidelines on a rolling timeline starting in May. These openings each came with very specific criteria for various businesses to abide by in order to decrease the risk of spreading the virus. Massage facilities had a lovely 4 page outline of precautions, listing in detail all the measure that were to be taken upon re-opening. There'd be no certification, no test to pass, no form of verification aside from reporting of offenses. This outline of precautions was to be voluntarily upheld. Debate the validity or efficacy all you want, the outline was given as a condition of opening. And I took it seriously. I want to remain open, AND I won't do so at the expense of my or my client's health.

So why did I open in late May? Why not wait longer? Great question. I could have waited longer. But the only way to test the waters was to try. And I'd been granted permission and a very detailed outline of how to do so. I had 8+ weeks to research and collect supplies. I was willing to give it a shot with those clients who were also willing to meet me there. So I made my plans for how to operate as safely as we could, gathered all the necessary supplies we would need, and thought through the new protocols to formulate a course of action that suited the business and the clients. I developed all of this knowing that next week it could, and likely would change. I went into this knowing that not everyone was going to agree with me. And I went into this knowing some clients wouldn't be willing to take the risk. And that's okay. I did my research, I was following the guidelines I'd been given, and I was ready to test it out.

And so we opened, with a very rocky start. I didn't have a lease for the former studio yet, so we rented a small stand-alone treatment room and brought in our supplies each day. I awkwardly worked through remembering how to interact with other humans again, tried and failed at working with two new scheduling systems, and relentlessly pestered multiple leasing agents to get us back in our former studio as soon as possible. I tested out new scheduling software, a new website, and far more elaborate cleaning protocols. I adapted face mask use as new information became available, and worked out the kinks in dialogue and client guidance. I listened to feedback from clients, and tried to adapt in ways I could to improve the experience.

So far it has worked. Some clients are comfortable coming in. Some are not. Most clients have no problem with the new face mask and safety measures, and a few have major issues with them. It's all par for the course. These are strange new times, and we're trying out strange new ways. I'm not over-confident that we will be able to remain open, but I am confident that I am making the best choices I can. And when I learn a better way, I will do it a better way. But I will not waiver in my commitment to the health and safety of myself and my clients.

In case you're interested, here's the guidelines issued to massage facilities and another write up on risk assessment that I've found helpful.

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