Increasingly, businesses who make loadshedding work for them, no matter how challenging, are gaining a competitive advantage. With loadshedding being back and likely here to stay for the next few months, doing business in the dark is something all businesses, especially small businesses, need to be prepared for. Some of these include compromised physical security, electrical surge damage, spoilage of cold storage items, the cost of (unproductive) labour, and unhappy customers that business owners have to deal with. While we wait for Eskom to find the magic switch, here are some creative solutions to help minimise the load and keep your business online.
How you can prepare for loadshedding
Download the Eskom se Push app to get all the notifications for when loadshedding will affect your area to ensure that you are able to prepare in advance. Charge every device you need, including power banks and external batteries. Beat the blackouts with Yoco and keep your Yoco card payment device running smoothly by making sure that it is either charged before loadshedding starts or that it is connected to a backup power source. Power banks are best for keeping your devices (including your Yoco card machine) charged. Just make sure your phone is charged in advance and follow these instructions for your Android or iPhone. There have been reports of cell towers going down during loadshedding, so you should also consider finding alternative ways of accessing the internet. A good way to stay online is to have multiple SIM cards so that you can switch networks when one of them goes down. And if you’re the proud owner of a Khumo or Khumo Print, which have two SIM cards (Vodacom and MTN), you can toggle between networks should one of them be down. (For detailed instructions, see the info under “SIM Card” on the Khumo User Guide).
Due to Yoco devices using so little data, using a mobile hotspot to stay connected is an affordable option and the best when the power cut hits. Their affordability is undeniable, with prices as low as R75 each, but remember that you get what you pay for. The power storage capacity is ultimately what you pay for. Back up data on all devices – even better, work off the cloud as much as possible and unplug equipment from wall sockets to avoid power surge damage. Dongles and routers provide an affordable, reliable mobile internet source, using cellular data. A dongle costs about R200 and can support a few internet users at a time, whereas good mobile router average around R1 000 and can support many more users. Consult your mobile network for more info on data costs.
What do I do with my staff during loadshedding?
Consider altering working hours (a little earlier or later) depending on outage times and try using the time for team-building exercises or plan (offline) training or workshops. The downtime presents an opportunity to have the staff meetings and/or one-on-one feedback sessions and to do deep cleaning, stock taking and reorganise where required. It’s about using the time wisely. Re-plan your workday: list all tasks that require electricity, and do them in order of priority while the power is on. Focus on “offline” priorities during loadshedding, and turn it into a productive part of your day. Also consider starting work earlier or staying later.
Safety and security during loadshedding
Buying a generator can be intimidating, but there are several options on the market that may work for your needs. Smaller, portable units are becoming very popular, and larger setups can be hired on a short- or long-term contracts, for a fraction of the purchase cost. The generator size most suited for your business depends on your (absolutely necessary) electrical requirements. A shop with fridges, air conditioning, computers and tills would need at least a 5KW unit (R8 000 to R20 000), but a smaller 2KW (R2 000 to R5 000) generator can keep crucial computers, lights and basic appliances on. Some considerations to think about when buying or leasing a generator include:
- Where will it go? – You will have to find somewhere with adequate ventilation (to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning) and which does not pose a noise disturbance to customers and the public (within reason).
- Diesel – Fuel prices are always unstable, but imminent escalation is a certainty with more generators flooding the South African consumer market every day.
- Safe storage – Fuel should always be stored far away from heat sources, and in sealed, fire-resistant containers. Diesel should be bought in advance, since supply is likely to fluctuate and fuel delivery services will be pushed to their operational limits in the next few months.
- Maintenance – Generators need to be monitored and refuelled often for operational safety, so costly maintenance is unavoidable.
Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) unit is another solution to consider. These powerful units can be plugged directly into your devices and electrical systems. UPSs come in a variety of sizes and capacities – smaller machines start at R450, and larger ones that can accommodate many different input channels and maintain power for several hours (costs between R5 000 and R8 000). UPSs can be used to power point of sale devices, computers and tills and all types of appliances and devices. Be aware that they may each need to have their own unit, depending on physical proximity and load requirements. A key thing to remember is that power cuts limit the municipal water pumping facilities, so make sure that you keep extra water on hand.
- Encourage customers to pay with card and minimise cash on the premises
- Investigate alternative power solutions for electric gates or perimeter security
- Get a UPS for CCTV and alarms inside the premises
- Consult your insurer about coverage when security is compromised by loadshedding
- Cash up in between power cuts where possible
- Use very bright, rechargeable lamps to keep vulnerable areas of the premises well-lit
If you plan correctly and anticipate your business’s needs, loadshedding does not have to affect your sales!