It’s the last 10 seconds in the World Cup final, and then *duff* the power goes off. Loadshedding is not a vibe for anyone, especially if you’re a small business trying to thrive in an often trying economy. We’ve made it our business to know all the wins and woes of SMEs in South Africa, so we thought we’d tackle a hot topic right now in our guide to combatting loadshedding.
What is loadshedding exactly?
You’ve probably heard this word more in the last three months than you have in the last 3 years. Loadshedding has taken South Africa by storm, and who knows where it’s going. For most consumers and business owners, it’s difficult to understand what it is exactly and where the blame lies (we won’t be playing the blame game here we can assure you). In South Africa, electricity is primarily supplied by the state-owned utility company, Eskom. Eskom operates a number of power stations that generate electricity using coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric power. In addition to Eskom, there are also a number of independent power producers (IPPs) that generate electricity using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. These IPPs sell the electricity they generate to Eskom, which then distributes it to customers.
So what’s happened to our electricity? If you still don’t understand the need to shed, here’s a better description. Loadshedding is a measure used in South Africa to manage electricity demand when supply is not able to meet demand. This can happen when there is a generation capacity shortage or a transmission system problem. When load shedding is implemented, certain areas will have their electricity supply intentionally cut off for a period of time in order to reduce the overall demand on the system. This is done according to a pre-determined schedule, which is usually made available to the public.
Should businesses be worrying about loadshedding?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. As business owners, you are already worrying about so much, it’s probably best not to add loadshedding to the pile as well. However, loadshedding is likely to impact your business in some way whether you like it or not.
Here are a couple of roadblocks SMEs may face during loadshedding:
(P.S. we’re only telling you about the doom and gloom because we are going to help you combat it later on in this guide).
Disruptions to operations: Loadshedding can cause power outages that can disrupt production processes, leading to lost productivity and potential damage to equipment.
Possible loss of revenue: Businesses may lose revenue as a result of load shedding, particularly if they are unable to serve customers or complete orders on time.
Increased costs: SMEs may need to invest in backup generators or other measures to mitigate the impact of load shedding,which can be costly.
Difficulty in forecasting and planning: Loadshedding schedules are often unpredictable and may change at short notice, making it difficult for SMEs to plan and forecast effectively.
Damage to reputation: Businesses that are unable to deliver products or services on time as a result of load shedding may damage their reputation with customers.
Difficulty in competing with larger companies: SMEs may find it harder to compete with larger companies that have more resources to mitigate the impact of load shedding.
Crime – unfortunately the best time to steal is when the power goes out, and when your alarm system goes down. Thieves will use this opportune time to break into business premises.
Internet issues – this one is a big bogey, especially for online businesses, no power means no internet even.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way and listed every possible thing that could go wrong, let’s keep positive and look to the future. The best way forward for SMEs is to be educated on EVERYTHING when it comes to loadshedding and we mean everything - even the stuff you don’t want to hear. Preparation is going to be your key to succeeding as an SME in South Africa.
Loadshedding is now a regular occurrence and as SMEs, you need to minimise its impact as much as possible. We work hand in hand with plenty of small business owners in South Africa so we know your woes and we also know your successes and how they came to be. There is definitely a way to power through the darkness and we’ve done our research.
5 ways SMEs can survive and thrive during loadshedding
There are still plenty of ways you can thrive in South Africa and take your small business to new heights. Sometimes all you need is a helping hand to guide you through your business journey. Some of these tips are a bit easier to follow than others but if you break each tip into something more manageable you’ll be well on your way to business success.
1. Invest in an alternative energy solution
There are countless reasons why investing in an alternative energy solution is a great idea. A backup generator can provide power during outages, allowing your business to continue operating. Be sure to choose a generator that is appropriately sized for your business needs. In addition to that another option is a UPS (uninterruptible power supply): A UPS can provide temporary power to your computer and other essential equipment during short outages, allowing you to save your work and shut down your equipment safely. A more expensive route, but one that will ensure your electricity never drop is a large-scale inverter. Essentially an inverter allows you to convert DC or direct current power into AC or alternating current power. The inverter has batteries which store power until you need the AC power to run various appliances, computers or equipment in your office. Last but not least, is a solar energy solution. This will be the most expensive route but in the long run the most cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly. Solar panels on your business premises roof or somewhere on the property that is secure, will provide much-needed relief plus you won’t have to rely on Eskom at all if you go completely off the grid.
*Side note – if you don’t have the funding right now to make such an expensive purchase, business funding might be the ideal solution. Compare offers from trusted lenders in South Africa so that you can fund an alternative energy solution.
2. Implement energy-efficient practices
If your energy bills are skyrocketing at the moment because you are having to charge up your UPS or you need to pay for diesel to power your generator - there are always other ways to cut costs. There can be very simple and small changes you can make to your energy consumption habits, such as turning off lights, computers and equipment when not in use. Making a habit of this as a business can really help reduce your business's energy consumption and lower your electricity bill.
3. Use cloud-based services
In this century, this is a no-brainer. Imagine this scenario, you have a one-week deadline to get a project done, your team have been working frantically to get it done on time and then *duff* the power goes off and you forgot to click save. Yes in some instances your document could have auto-saved and viola you find your excel or word document again. However, sometimes the worst can happen, where nothing is saved and you would’ve been much better off backing it up to SharePoint, Google Drive or Dropbox. Cloud-based services like these can help ensure that your business's data is safe and accessible even during outages.
4. Communicate with customers
One thing about South Africans is that we are all understanding, most likely because we are all in this together and going through the same issues. Transparency with your customers during loadshedding is the best route. Keep your customers informed about any disruptions caused by loadshedding, and let them know what steps you are taking to minimize the impact. This will help to build trust and maintain customer loyalty. We can also assure you that your customers are pretty used to having to use their phone torch to find their way around a grocery store during loadshedding as long as they are aware its happening and you apologise for any inconvenience caused.
5. Plan ahead & check the loadshedding schedule
As a business owner, it’s your role to always stay ahead of whatever issues may come your way. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best as they say, and luckily with the help of a pretty awesome app called Eskom Se Push, you can plan ahead and take note of the loadshedding schedule. In addition to that you need to couple the loadshedding schedule with a loadshedding plan. This plan will need to outline how your business will operate during outages, and make sure all employees are familiar with it. Have a plan for data recovery and equipment repair in case of any damage caused by power outages.
*Side note: setup alerts on Eskom Se Push so you know exactly when the loadshedding schedule changes from different stages so you can inform your employees and create an action plan.
Now that you are fully prepared (and have a couple of torches on hand just in case) for what awaits, it’s time to focus your attention on other aspects of your business. Loadshedding should not detract from other important goals that drive your business forward. Once you’ve got your action plan in place, your team can spend their time finding more clients, hiring more team members and growing your revenue.