Question: I’m concerned about the impact of rising energy costs on my business. What can I do to reduce my use of energy? Sam Knox, a member of Invest NI's sustainable development team, replies: There are several ways you can reduce your business energy bills and carbon emissions, including designing more efficient processes and changing employee behaviour. You could also save money by switching to alternative energy sources.
Even small measures can have a positive impact on your costs, for example, using energy saving bulbs, regulating heating, and using electricity-powered tools rather than compressed air versions.
Start by looking at your energy use by taking regular meter readings and identifying patterns of energy consumption. Consider appointing an ‘energy champion’ to find ways of reducing energy use. It’s also important to get all your staff on board with any energy efficient measures that you want to implement.
If you invest in energy-saving tech
nologies and products you can benefit from tax relief. Some energy efficient and renewable materials also qualify for reduced rates of VAT and Enhanced Capital Allowance ( www.eca.gov.uk ). For example, installing energy efficient central heating systems, solar panels and insulation all qualify.
There are several organisations that you can approach for advice or financial assistance with energy efficiency. The
Carbon Trust is a government-funded organisation that provides free advice on saving money through energy efficiency.
It provides site energy surveys, interest-free loans and information on energy efficiency. You can call the Carbon Trust Advice Line on 0800 085 2005.
You can also get advice from Invest NI’s Sustainable Development Team (028 9069 8773) or by visiting the envi
ronment and efficiency section of www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk .
Question: I am currently considering outsourcing aspects of the company. What should I be thinking about and what are the advantages?
Colin Maybin, owner and managing director of Maybin Support Services (Irl) and Momentum Support, replies:
You are not alone. Given the current economic climate many companies are looking at ways to improve efficiency and lower costs. Outsourcing can make more efficient use of labour, capital, technology and resources.
You should give some consideration to the following:
l The quality of the service can be improved greatly through contracting out the service with a service level agreement. Ensure you are getting a better if
not equal quality of service.
l Services will be provided to a legally binding contract with financial penalties and legal redress. This will give you the opportunity to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the supplier. Ensure that you implement proper objective measurement and reporting.
l Access to operational best practice that would be too difficult or time consuming to develop in-house. This will save you many man hours.
l Access to effective trained specialist management and a sustainable source of skills, therefore there will be no concern about staffing.
It is also important that you can work with the contractor and that there is a level of trust and a degree of flexibility.
Contractors should be managed in such a way that they know what you require and that they then can deliver a quality service. Remember that outsourcing allows you to concentrate on the core activity of your business.