COMMENTARY: Dream big and act small

Every year since 1963, the president of the United States has issued a proclamation setting aside one week to recognize the critical role America’s entrepreneurs and small businesses play in our economy.

April 30 through May 6 marks the 54th time we will celebrate National Small Business Week. Those of us who work day in and day out with the men and women who own and operate these businesses don’t need a week to understand their importance to our society. We know that right now, more than half of the working American population is employed by, or owns a small business. According to the Small Businesses Administration (SBA), these companies and individuals create seven out of every ten new jobs in this country.

Why are these statistics important? Because according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic, in five years, only half of the small businesses that started this year will still be operational. And when small businesses die, we all suffer.

Doug Heinrich

The reasons some small businesses don’t make it as varied and diverse as the businesses themselves. Sometimes the market dries up or your customers find better alternatives, and other times, the cost of operating becomes insurmountable. That’s why small businesses need to get smart when it comes to managing their finances — they need to monitor their expenses closely, use their size to their advantage and make quick changes when necessary.

Surprisingly, one area where small businesses have options but rarely pursue them relates to their energy bills. This is particularly astounding given that many small businesses rank energy as among their top monthly expenses.

Luckily, small business owners in Delaware now have a choice. Thanks to law passed by the General Assembly back in 1999 that introduced a competitive process into the marketplace, small businesses now have the option to shop around for their electricity supplier.

In the meantime, dream big, but act on the small things that will add up and save you money.

Below are some simple tips that can help you get smarter when it come to your energy consumption.

•When possible, lock-in flexible electricity and natural gas rates. Energy prices can fluctuate quickly, that’s why you should ensure your business has the ability to take advantage of beneficial price changes.

•Consider Solar Power. Solar power can offer your business long-term price certainty, as well as tax breaks and incentives.

•Set clear saving goals. Information is power. After you have an accurate assessment of your current energy use, you can set clear and attainable energy savings goals for your business.

•Get your employees involved. Saving energy is a team sport. By engaging your employees in this discussion, you can create an energy saving culture at work.

•Examine your businesses energy usage online. If your supplier has the capacity, you can access your account information, and in just a few clicks, track your usage and make adjustments where needed. For example, with Direct Energy, you can see a rolling 13-month view of your usage every time you log on.

•Change, tune-up or clean your HVAC system. New filters are relatively cheap but can save you lots of money on the long run.

•Upgrade to a smart thermostat. These devices are literally changing the way we use energy. Many models have a range of energy-saving features including mobile and web applications and motion sensors.

•Turn the lights off when not in use and install occupancy sensors, change your light bulbs to energy efficient bulbs, and consider energy efficient exit signs. An energy efficient exit sign can save up to $10 per, sign per year. Every cent counts.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Doug Heinrich is head of Direct Energy North American Sales, Small Business.

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