By Vanessa Papas
Recently it’s been difficult for small businesses across the country, with Stage 4 load shedding being implemented countrywide.
While some relief has been given, it may not be sustainable. It’s no secret that Eskom struggles with ageing infrastructure, unmanageable debt and uncertainty about when load shedding will come to an end once and for all. It may take years for Eskom’s system to stabilise, and until then small and independent businesses must do what they can to protect themselves from the impact of energy shortfalls. Outsourced Finance’s Malusi Cwele and Depo Ogunruku are no strangers to the struggles of being entrepreneurs during load shedding.
They offer the following tips to small and independent businesses:
Save Electricity And Reduce Costs: Reducing the electricity your business uses can both decrease costs and the burden on the energy grid, keeping the lights on for longer. This is important if you are not able to purchase backup power systems or equipment to make your business energy efficient. Lighting accounts for about 20 percent of the output of power stations globally. This factor often gets overlooked. Replacing your current lighting with energy-saving bulbs will not only reduce your energy bill, your lights will last eight about 25 times longer.
Adapt Your Operating Model Where Possible: This involves introducing flexible working hours for you and/or your office-based staff. Compare the load shedding schedule at your workspace to where your staff live so that your team can ensure their devices are always charged and they have access to the Internet. Businesses that have higher staff numbers could consider introducing shift systems to better plan operating times and save the business from downtimes. Speak to your accountant about using shift allowances to avoid high overtime costs in bad periods.
Invest In Backup Power And Energy Independence: Some businesses, especially those that operate from a home-workspace, own or can make improvements to their workspaces and may consider making an investment in battery inverter solutions. The benefit of these is that there is no maintenance cost, environmental impact or noise pollution. Battery inverters can store up to 12 hours of electricity, depending on their strength. This will be enough to continue running your business during load shedding. Generators are a popular option; however, business owners must still consider the fuel, installation and maintenance costs, and the noise associated with running it for long periods of time. Depending on business needs, the price of generators could be as low as R5 000, although many small businesses may require more capacity. Typically, the additional cost of generator levies is less than the lost revenue from not having power. Small and independent businesses can also explore solar solutions such as PV panels and batteries if they want to make an investment to ensure energy independence. The cost of these is still high but decreasing, with payback periods of between five to 25 years, based on the chosen solution.
Be Prepared: While there are apps such as EskomSePush, which help us all plan our days, it is not unknown for Eskom to jump between various stages within a matter of hours. Be prepared for load shedding to happen – always. Keep your phone charged, your laptop battery full (and have a spare) and enable your phone to receive e-mails. If working with any computers, it’s vital to back up your data often. You could also consider cloud-based storage. That way you can work from anywhere without carrying around storage equipment such hard drives.
Consider Your Equipment: Load shedding is not going away anytime soon. If you have not done so already, it’s time to rethink your office equipment to make sure you can operate when the lights go out. Consider trading your desktop in for a laptop. This will allow you to move locations when required. While VoIP phones (voice over Internet protocol) are cost-effective and perfect for business use, the lines rely on power to operate, leaving you without a phone for a few hours during load shedding. Consider investing in a backup phone or speak to your service provider about forwarding options during downtimes. Eskom may not be the brightest sparks, but we know that South Africa’s business owners are! Think on your feet, be smart about your business decisions and know what your options are.
By Vanessa Papas