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How to survive as a local business during the times of load shedding

Article provided by Simply

Load shedding is currently a frustrating factor of everyday life in South Africa. It is undoubtedly made worse because it seems load shedding is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Here are seven strategies to help your business survive and thrive through days filled with power outages and uncertainty.

Small businesses in South Africa are not only juggling post-pandemic troubles, economic difficulties, and a tough market but the added insecurity of power outages. Load shedding impacts the ability to fulfil everyday tasks and duties such as travel or cooking, but the impact that the constant power outages have on the commercial sector is also unfathomable.

The Small Business Institute commented on how small businesses are hardest hit since they’re less likely to be able to afford the measures needed to cushion them from regular electricity cuts. And with power cuts averaging 2-4 hours at a time, this potentially means up to four hours of lost productivity in a given workday.

Business Unity SA (BUSA) chief executive, Cas Coovadia, said load shedding has had a disastrous impact on small businesses. “Small businesses don’t have resources for alternative energy such as generators, and they don’t have the cash flow to manage goods getting spoilt and managing other costs related to loading shedding,” he said.

Load shedding is devastating for the South African economy, estimating that the economy loses billions of rands each day due to power cuts.

With this in mind, here are seven strategies to help your small business survive load shedding in the months and years ahead:

1. Don’t be taken by surprise

The most important strategy in dealing with load shedding is to know when to expect your power outage. Yes, sometimes it comes out of nowhere, but more than often, you know a few hours before an outage when your area might be affected; mobile applications such as Eskom se Push, Loadshed, Gridwatch and Loadshedder Alert give you handy tools like load-shedding forecasts for your business’s location, notifications of when load shedding is scheduled to start, as well as the ability to report outages and errors on Eskom’s schedule. When you are aware of your schedule, you will be able to perform and delegate business tasks that don’t require electricity, such as product deliveries. Perhaps even schedule your lunch break for when the power is out.

2. Prepare ahead for the risks

Once you know your area’s load-shedding schedule, it’s important to plan for the possible risks that your business might face when the power is cut. Risks can include stock spoiling and burglary, power surges when the electricity comes back on, and causing damage to electronic equipment. Take the appropriate measures to reduce these risks – if you store and sell valuable stock, invest in extra security measures for your premises; if you’re a restaurant, make provisions for how you’ll keep food cold or frozen. Also, consider surge protection plugs, and back up your data if you have electronic equipment.

3. Adopt cloud-based business solutions

Cloud-based business solutions will ensure that you can remain most productive during your load-shedding period without the risk of losing any work between or during outages.  If you use computer software to run your business, you can move to an area with a stable internet connection and continue working during a power outage. Using cloud-based storage and backup solutions like Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive can be a lifesaver for a small business.

4. Investing in a low-cost UPS system

There aren’t many successful businesses that can function well without electricity for extended periods of time. An uninterrupted power supply (UPS) will help you to keep a few lights on, and even keep working during load-shedding hours. A UPS is basically a giant battery that can keep your computer (or anything else) running when the power goes down. Crucially, a UPS is also designed to instantly switch to an internal power supply to make sure that devices plugged in never lose power, not even for a second. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the more battery power you’ll get, and the longer your UPS will last. For a small business, a UPS that keeps your WIFI router going, at the very least, will keep the basics up and running.

5. Make a small investment into an alternative energy source

Not every small business can afford the cost of high-end alternative energy solutions such as installing generators or solar-powered batteries. But there are other options. We’re not talking tens of thousands of rands to invest in a huge industrial-sized generator – for many small businesses, this cost outlay is simply not feasible. But a small generator need only cost a few hundred or thousand rands. If lighting and heat are crucial for performing your work (for example, if you’re an artisan or tradesman), this may be an essential purchase. There are several retailers who stock a good range of “load-shedding business essentials”, selling power banks, battery packs, solar panels, and more to get you started.

6. Consider moving into a shared office environment

While this may be an added expense to a small business, the hours you can make up for in productivity may be worth it if you invest in a hot desk in a shared office space equipped with a generator. This means that at least one or more of your staff members can perform your most crucial activities while the power is off. Workspaces like Workshop17, WeWork, Workspaces, Regus, The Workspace, Cube Workspace are brilliant workspaces that provide an environment protected from the worst of load-shedding. Alternatively, most gyms also have generators; perhaps investing in a gym membership for staff would greatly benefit health, wellness, and work that needs to be done during load-shedding.

7. Think of an alternative schedule

Learn to be flexible. One advantage that small businesses have over large corporations is that they can be more flexible. Consider alternative working schedules for your staff that can adapt around load-shedding hours. For example, if your business is an industrial kitchen, you could do food preparation in the morning where you’d normally do it in the evening. Or, if your business uses machinery, you could plan to use these during the hours when the power is on and perform other tasks not dependent on electricity while it’s off. You could also consider giving your staff flexible work hours to still complete their work in their own time on a given day when power allows.

For a small business, load shedding is disruptive and frustrating. Having a plan and strategy in place can help cushion you to some extent to try and minimise the knock your small business takes due to this national power crisis.

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