Long-term planning

Loadshedding: A small business continuity plan

With loadshedding here to stay, businesseses need a power outage business continuity plan. In this article, we discuss what to do when the lights go out.

There’s been a lot of ‘new normal’ going on over the last couple of years, and sadly, Eskom has confirmed that for at least the next 12 to 18 months, loadshedding will be part of that.

Medupi, Kusile, and Tatuka are starting to feel like dodgy cousins who ruin your family gatherings. But you know they have to be invited, so you prepare yourself for the horror and make the best of the situation.

Same-same with the loadshedding.

It has left no one unscathed. Not least of which are small businesses. For many, the loss in revenue has been insurmountable, resulting in staff layoffs or, in some cases, completely shutting shop.

The risk these rolling blackouts pose to businesses are significant and include:

  • Loss of production: Manufacturing businesses rely on power to keep their production lines going. No power = no production.
  • Loss of income: Loadshedding often results in consumers postponing their shopping to avoid traffic nightmares and dark stores that can’t accept electronic payments. No customers = no income.
  • Theft and burglary: Thieves are taking the opportunity to burgle businesses or steal from shelves when the stores are dark and alarm systems are disarmed. No alarm = no protection.
  • Poor connectivity: Businesses that predominantly transact online are severely affected when the internet goes down due to power cuts. They are unable to transact, fulfil orders, or communicate with their customers. No connectivity = no business.

It’s easy to see why small businesses are suffering. This is why it’s imperative to have a loadshedding business continuity plan in place.

This is a list of procedures your business can follow to reduce the impact of power cuts and includes everything from customer communication to backup power solutions.

Everything you can do to help mitigate financial losses must be included in your plan.

Here are some things you can do to help your business survive:

Forewarned is forearmed

We know how often the schedule can change, so make sure you set up news alerts or push notifications to stay in the know.

The EskomSePush app delivers the most up-to-date notifications directly to your mobile device. You can also follow Eskom, City Power in Joburg, or the City of Cape Town on social media for updates.

Knowing when your area will be without power means you can ask your people to work from home or reschedule jobs for when the power comes back on.

Get your flex on

When loadshedding hits, traffic becomes a nightmare, making getting to the office a real bunfight. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that once your employees (finally) get to the office, they won’t sit in the dark for another couple of hours.

Many services businesses and those in supporting roles can work from anywhere if they have a stable internet connection. Being flexible and allowing employees who can do their jobs remotely to work from home will help you maintain productivity and employee morale.

Max out on manual

When loadshedding hits, it doesn’t have to mean the end of all productivity. It could be a good time to do those tasks that you tend to put off, like spring cleaning, or manual admin.

It’s also the perfect time to do some upskilling workshops or to call customers to inform them of the situation and reassure them that you will be available again soon—or even to check in and say hi. Staff can also use this time to talk or work together on projects.

Feet on the ground, head in the cloud

Implementing cloud-based business solutions is one of the best ways to ensure that your business stays productive during loadshedding because it allows your staff to work from anywhere there’s an internet connection.

It also means that they no longer need to depend on an in-office server or computer to log into your accounting software or CRM—they can do it from any device—to access the latest data.

Back it all the way up

Be sure to back up your data regularly, so you don’t lose important information when the power goes out.

Regular backups are a good idea whether there is loadshedding or not because you’ll want to be covered in the event of a hard drive crash or theft. Many cloud-based storage solutions are available to small business owners, like OneDrive and Dropbox, which store online copies of all your documents. Using a cloud-based solution will automatically back up your data, meaning you won’t need to worry about losing important information like accounting and payroll records.

It is also good practice to back up your data to a physical external hard drive in case you need to access your information without an internet connection.

UPSes? What a Genny-ous idea!

Investing in an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) is a great alternative if your business cannot afford to install a generator or solar power solution.

A UPS will give your employees the time to save their work and safely shut down their computers when the power goes off. Even generators take a little while to kick in, and a UPS will give you the time you need to ensure your work is saved.

Another option is to invest in a backup power inverter. An inverter system can keep your routers, computers, and essential lights on for a couple of hours which should, in theory, see you through a loadshedding bout.

Pull the plug

As if being powerless for a couple of hours each day wasn’t enough, loadshedding also poses a risk to your hardware. When electricity is restored, it often results in power surges that can damage your equipment beyond repair.

To avoid this, switch off and unplug all computers and relevant hardware from the main power source as soon as the power goes out, and only plug them back in once the power has been on for a couple of minutes.

Bank on power banks

We all work from our smartphones when we’re not in the office. Sometimes lugging your laptop around is just too much of a schlep, so you rely on your palm-friendly companion to conduct your business. It even serves as a handy hotspot when the internet is down.

But this drains the battery quite quickly, and the last thing you want is to be loadshed without a charged phone. A power bank will provide the backup power you need to keep your mobile devices powered—and you contactable—throughout the day. Just remember to recharge them when the power comes back on!

Insured? Secured!

Replacing expensive, sensitive electronics is the last thing your small business wants to have to do. While loadshedding itself is not an insurable risk, you can still get cover for your hardware if it is damaged during a power surge.

Not all insurers offer this cover, but some offer it as an add-on, so check with your broker to see if you’re covered, and under what terms.

Some might require that you have backup solutions in place to mitigate the risk, so be sure to implement these to increase your chances of a successful claim.

Light at the end of the tunnel

While loadshedding is here to stay, it doesn’t have to be the end of the road for your small business. Putting a continuity plan in place will save you time, money, and your mind when the blackouts hit.

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