How SMMEs can survive and thrive when load shedding strikes
With the latest bout of load shedding underway, companies are no doubt anxious about the disruption it will have on their business. The economy shrank by 3.1% due to the blackouts experienced in March this year, according to the South African Reserve Bank, and Western Cape Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC, David Maynier indicated in October 2019 that load shedding would cost the Western Cape economy R150 million per day.
While there is no avoiding the fact that load shedding will impact your business, there are ways to mitigate it, says Christiaan Steyn, head of Business Insurance at MiWay.
Here are a few tips to help your business power through the outages:
Know the schedule – and everyone else’s too
Businesses that have to deal with suppliers and stock need to be especially attentive to load shedding schedules. And not just your own areas either.
There are a number of apps available to check your own area as well as the areas of companies from which you are expecting deliveries or stock. Make a habit of phoning them the day before a scheduled outage and asking whether this will affect their obligations to you.
Although communicating with your suppliers will allow you to be on top of things during load shedding; if possible, choose suppliers who have sufficient backup plans for load shedding to minimise the impact on your business and operations.
If you offer the delivery of goods to the premises of a business currently undergoing load shedding, check beforehand as to whether the delivery should go ahead. Someone may not be there to receive the goods – and perishable goods may spoil if the business doesn’t have alternative storage facilities.
Now is the time to implement those creative workplace solutions that ensure you get the most out of your biggest asset: your employees.
Make sure you run a tight ship during load shedding season with your staff by setting clear objectives on scheduled load shedding days and, if possible, move lunch hours, opening or closing times around.
Where possible, employees who can get their work done from home should be given the opportunity but also given very specific objectives for the day to maintain productivity. If you are able to, give staff the time off in return for them agreeing to work weekends or after hours when load shedding is no longer an issue.
When the lights do go out and work still needs to be done, get a battery-operated radio out, buy some pizzas for the team and make it fun. A happy workplace is a healthy one – even if the pizza is not.
Let your light shine and think positive
Try to look at load shedding as an opportunity – fewer businesses to compete with and more market share of customers because competitors might have closed up shop when the power cuts.
If you have adequate generator-run lighting and payment systems, gadgets like battery-operated printers and fully charged laptops for staff members, business becomes quite doable.
If you are in the retail industry, try adding in a load shedding special for whenever the power goes off that will keep customers coming in. Have you considered setting up an online store or offering your products on existing online platforms? Turn load shedding into one of the best things to have hit your business...
Generating an income
In a world ever more digital, you need electricity to run almost any sort of business. Tills need power to operate in stores, manufacturing plants need power for their machinery and even accessing your building or property can be problematic without it.
Getting a generator is the obvious solution, but not all generators are created equal. Do extensive research before deciding which generator is best for your business – chances are it is an inverter generator, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for specials and sales.
Buying a generator is all well and good, but many micro-enterprises simply cannot afford the expense. Enter sharing solutions, which are becoming increasingly popular in SA.
If you are based in an office park or a co-working environment, talk to your neighbouring businesses about coming together to buy a higher-end generator you can all share. This makes lots of sense especially as quality generators are more reliable, they run more quietly, the risk of it frying any of your expensive equipment drops drastically compared to cheaper models, and they can be lighter on fuel in the long run too.
Load shedding cover
If a generator is still out of your reach, it may be a good time to beef up your business insurance.
For example, some insurers offer the option of taking out additional cover for damages caused by power surges and dips – and specifically caters for damage to electronic items as a result of load shedding or a power fault. It may also be worth it to double-check the terms and conditions of your business insurance policy to ensure that your business is covered against other eventualities that may arise from a power failure, such as computers being damaged as a result of a power surge.
A further contingency plan is business interruption insurance. Many businesses don’t have this cover because it can be quite expensive, but it can also be the difference between surviving or closing your doors after a devastating interruption to your business.
Business interruption insurance can either only cover the fixed expenses that your business continues to incur while not being able to do business, or, at an additional premium, it can include the loss of profit and additional expenses you will incur for having to make alternative plans to continue operations.
Some policies will cover load shedding while others will not, so be sure to check before signing on the dotted line.