Although loadshedding has recently been suspended, Andrew Etzinger, acting head of generation at Eskom, warned that ‘things could change at short notice’. Doing business in the dark is something all businesses, especially small businesses, should be prepared for. Compromised physical security, electrical surge damage, spoilage of cold storage items, the cost of (unproductive) labour, and unhappy customers are just a few of the things that business owners have to deal with. Increasingly, businesses who make loadshedding work for them, no matter how challenging, are gaining a competitive advantage.
Fight the power
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 can I prepare for loadshedding?
- Download Eskom se Push to get notifications for when loadshedding will affect your area.
- Charge every device you could need, including power banks and external batteries.
- Back up data on all devices – even better, work off the cloud as much as possible.
- Unplug equipment from wall sockets to avoid power surge damage.
- Power cuts limit the municipal water pumping facilities, so keep extra water on hand.
- 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.
Power banks: Power banks are best for keeping your devices (including your Yoco card machine) charged. 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.
Using your phone as a hotspot: Because Yoco devices use so little data, using a mobile hotspot to stay connected is an affordable option. Just make sure your phone is charged in advance and follow these instructions for your Android or iPhone.
Dongles and routers: 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.
Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS): 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.
What do I do with my staff during loadshedding?
- Have staff meetings and/or one-on-one feedback sessions during this time
- Plan (offline) training or workshops
- Try using the time for team-building exercises
- Consider altering working hours (a little earlier or later) depending on outage times
- Be flexible about breaks and lunch hour, to use time wisely
- Use the time to deep clean, do stock taking and reorganise
Generator: 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.
Considerations when buying or leasing a generator:
- 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.
Safety and security during loadshedding
- 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
Beating the blackouts with Yoco
To keep your Yoco device running smoothly make sure that it is either charged before loadshedding starts or that it is connected to a backup power source. Also, keep your phone charged so that your Yoco device can connect to the internet.
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.
Follow this four-step plan if your mobile network is causing you issues:
- Download the OpenSignal app before any loadshedding.
- If your network goes down test your signal using the app to see if you can get better coverage by moving around.
- If you still can’t get signal, switch to a different network and test signal until you find a working network.
- Once you have switched SIM cards restart your Yoco device and re-pair it with your phone. Remember to use the network with the best signal for you area when loadshedding happens.
If you plan correctly and anticipate your business’s needs, loadshedding does not have to affect your sales. See it as an advantage you can use to give your business an edge and you might start looking forward to it.