Eskom’s load shedding continues to place a strain on the economy, no more so on small businesses, which employs millions of people.

David Seinker, Founder and CEO of The Business Exchange, examines how these companies can mitigate the impact.

Small medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) are the economic lifeblood of the country. The sector is providing employment to more than eight million South Africans spread across close to five million formal and informal SMMEs, contributing 40% turnover of all enterprises in the country.

The reality is that many small business owners cannot afford to buy generators to keep the lights on during the rolling blackouts. For them, three or four hours without electricity will have a significant negative financial impact. Without power, the small business owner is rendered helpless, losing thousands of rands with each instance of load shedding.

Without the contribution of these small businesses, the economy will be considerably worse off than what it is currently.

Dealing with the inevitable

Given how load shedding will likely be the reality for the foreseeable future, what can entrepreneurs and small business owners do to survive?

On a most basic level, the load shedding schedule should become integrated into their daily calendars. It might be worthwhile planning meetings during such ‘down time’ or other administrative tasks. But that is not really a sustainable, long-term solution.

Co-working spaces, such as those provided by The Business Exchange, are growing in popularity for the innovative ways in which they empower entrepreneurs and small business owners, including combating load shedding by keeping the lights on.

These flexible workspaces are designed to foster a dynamic ecosystem where people can work together and network with other businesses they might not ordinarily have been exposed to.

Joint environments

Fundamentally, these co-working environments provide small businesses with access to much larger infrastructure they would not necessarily have been able to afford on their own.

Working from home or from a stand-alone office places pressure on the small business to ensure that all the required infrastructure is in place. And while in ideal operating conditions, it might be possible to do so cost-effectively, the reality of load shedding means it becomes untenable.

Instead of having to invest in backup power or alternative options, using a co-working environment alleviates that pressure as the vital infrastructure is provided. At face value, small businesses not only get beautifully designed office spaces in central locations, but also access to infrastructure including meeting rooms and internet connectivity.

From fibre to video conferencing facilities, communal kitchens to secure access and parking, co-working environments are becoming a vital component to ensuring the longevity of small businesses in these challenging times.

The convenience and confidence of being able to work during load shedding makes them worth their proverbial weight in gold alone to the economy.

Providing business owners with the peace of mind that they can remain focused on doing what they do instead of worrying about what will happen when the lights go out, mean co-working spaces will grow in popularity and be a key enabler of the growth of the SMME sector in South Africa for some time to come.

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