Load shedding has become the order of the day in Zimbabwe and businesses are taking the plungeLoadshedding costing businesses more than productivity big time. Most businesses have either scaled down operations whilst some have actually gone out of business altogether. The essence of business is being able to be productive and keeping operating costs at bay. Sadly, load shedding is making that extremely difficult for most businesses. Finding ways to stay afloat despite the prevailing power outages is what can distinguish you as a business. In this article, I discuss some practical tips you can try out to abate challenges brought about by these incessant power cuts. I’ll deliberately discuss low-cost tips because I know that most businesses have cash flow challenges
Pooling Resources Together
Despite the costliness of having to get a generator, it’s usually possible that at your business premises there’s someone who has one. I’ve been to several business complexes where this is practised. Ideally, you come together as a team and arrange to make contributions for fuelling the generator. This will definitely keep you in business and at very reasonable costs. I see barbers, salons, repair shops and a wide range of small to medium scale enterprises doing this. This is just one example but there many other ways of pooling resources together to avert power outages.
Leverage On Mobile Internet
Most businesses operate using Wi-Fi services that need the power to operate. Here’s the trick, ensure you have a charged-up phone and then you purchase data bundles (Econet’s YoMix offers some very competitive data bundles). Then you use mobile internet to access your emails or to make communications on social media or other online channels. You can effectively stay online and in touch with your customers this way throughout the whole day. To save on battery power you must ensure you go online after reasonable intervals (only when absolutely necessary) so that you stay in the loop. You can also use portable modems or dongles for internet access.
Shift Working Hours
In most places, power is unavailable probably till late odd hours so this might be a bit challenging and actually unreasonable to do. There are of course some businesses who prepare their products or services (which require electricity) prior to normal opening hours. You might have to shift working hours so as to maximize productivity during the hours the power gets back on. Another scenario can be, for instance, power is unavailable since morning and then gets back on around say 4 pm (the usual time you close the business). You can deliberately, if possible, extend your operating hours. So explore ways to shift working hours so that you beat the power woes.
I’ll use the Chicken Inn example to illustrate this tip. As most of you know Chicken Inn (and other Simbisa Brands) now have stipulated operating hours during which they’ll be using a generator. Use that to think creatively on using the batch processing approach. Suppose you have a generator, instead of running it for hours on end, why not just turn it on to process certain tasks and turn it off (and operate like that in batches). That’ll definitely help you spend less on fuel than you would if you were it to have it on continuously. You can also put aside and queue certain non-urgent tasks that need power and do them once power is back. There are many ways to implement the batch processing approach – think critically.
Use Alternative Energy Sources
This will depend on the type of business you are running, the cost and availability of possible alternative energy sources. For instance, a barber can effectively operate using a charged-up battery or a small solar panel. Food outlets that focus on cooked foods can explore LP gas, charcoal or firewood. Even offices can be effectively run using solar energy to keep PCs on.
Cold Chain Management
Many businesses are having a hard time in this regard due to load shedding. As for small business such as fast food outlets or butcheries, there are some ways you can employ to keep your perishable foods frozen or chilled. Stuffing your freezer units to capacity helps keep food frozen for several hours after the power is gone. You can deliberately fill your freezer units with filled water bottles. Once they’re frozen they will help keep foods chilled or frozen for several hours. You can even go as far as covering the foods with an insulating material such as duvets before closing the freezer unit after power is gone.
Dedicated Use Of Devices
Suppose you run a business that relies heavily on being online and interacting with customers. Here’s what you can do, have a dedicated phone(s), power bank(s) or laptop(s) specifically for that (nothing else). Then you only use them periodically (not continuously) – by doing this you can go throughout your full operating hours with your devices on. So the basic idea is to have devices (those that run on power) fully charged-up when power is on. Then once you’re working you ensure they have strictly dedicated uses based on strategic intervals.
When power gets on it’s usually late and you’ll be in a rush to do many things at once. In order to not miss any important things, such emails have reminders and auto-notifications on your phone. It’s quite possible that you can receive an important email (with a tight deadline) when power is unavailable and then you miss it when the power comes back. So it’s important to have to-do lists and reminder mechanisms so that you don’t miss any important things due to load shedding.
So there you have it, 8 practical tips that can help you keep your business alive during these times of incessant load shedding. Hopefully, you’ll find them practicable and I would be glad if they can help ease the challenges you’re currently facing.