Npower q2 2013 sme billing booklet


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In these challenging times, the right support can make all the difference between success and failure. So this issue,we’ve chosen to feature some ideas you may find helpful.

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Npower q2 2013 sme billing booklet

  1. 1. Spring/Summer 2013here’s howwe can help your business…Support that can make a differenceSucceedHow a business plan can helpyou thriveSaveEnergy efficiency for all typesof businessCreditTips to help beat late payers 1
  2. 2. Welcome Energy Market View Energy market viewIn these challenging times, the right support can make all Changes to benefit businessesthe difference between success and failure. So this issue,we’ve chosen to feature some ideas you may find helpful. Despite a change at the top, the Energy Janet Wood is an Bill looks set to become law, and earlier independent energy journalist and former developments could be good news for editor of Utility Week SMEs. Janet Wood reports. A change of energy minister in April, when Michael Fallon took over from John Hayes, For starters, our Hot won’t disrupt work on the Energy Bill. There is Topic looks at how What’s inside dispute on some detail in the bill, but cross-party business planning Energy market view 3 support on the broad provisions, so although there could help you succeed will be opportunities for grandstanding speeches, npower news 4 (page 6). This follows the bill should be law by the end of the year. our own research which Hot topic: Planning for success 6 found that many SMEs Focus on: Energy efficiency 9 The smart shift Ofgem has also been making progress on its Retail aren’t benefiting from Green spotlight: Sustainable travel 12 Market Reform. That may change the look of your For business energy customers, there are more this key business aid. bill – most obviously, there should be clear reminders How to: Beat the late payers 14 immediate policy developments. The regulatorTo help you save money, we ask one of our Ofgem has been busy with plans to switch all about when your contract comes to an efficiency experts to share his top tips customers from dumb – or passive – meters toacross a number of business sectors – see page 9. ‘smart’ versions, and business customers are the Efficiency fundingAnd we look at sustainable travel and the tools Your feedback matters first on the list. Some businesses have already been Meanwhile, the long-promised Green Deal hasavailable to help you cut transport costs (page 12). We value your comments and upgraded and some will receive new meters in the finally gone into operation. This measure aims to suggestions, so if you have something next two or three years. The new versions will give tackle a persistent problem for many homes andLate payers are a concern for many businesses, to share, please email us at businesses far more information about their energy businesses – despite it being clear that improvingso we ask an expert to offer some advice to help use which, it’s hoped, could help them cut demand. energy efficiency will pay off in the long term,get the credit flowing again (page 14). For example, they will make it obvious just how the big upfront cost is hard to swallow. Now aWe hope you enjoy this issue, and please do let us much energy is being used to run lights or appliances Green Deal Provider, who may or may not beknow what you think. when they aren’t needed. For larger businesses, part of an energy supplier, will fund your it could enable them to consider different tariffs improvements and then be repaid out of savingsRachel Barrass to better reflect peak energy use. on your energy bill.Customer Service Manager Some larger businesses will already be using meters You probably won’t see a lower energy bill to start with automated meter reading (AMR) technology, with – but nor will you have a large bill to pay for which are especially useful where companies want the installation. Over time, as the loan is paid off, to understand and compare energy use in different you will see the financial benefit. It’s worth finding parts of their operation. If that’s already working for out more about an assessment to see if it could you, you won’t have to switch to smart meters. work for you.Editorial content provided by Susannah Lawson & Associates ( is a registered trademark and a trading name of Npower Direct Limited (registered in England and Wales No.3782443) and associated companies.Registered Office: Windmill Hill Business Park, Whitehill Way, Swindon SN5 6PB. 2 3
  3. 3. npower news Local Rugby League player Omari Caro (centre left) joins the npower news SME team for Comic Relief, as staff get into the spirit to raise funds ahead of manning the phones for public donations. Car sharing can save commuters £400 npower staff at the company’s Solihull offices are being encouraged to reduce their carbon emissions, following the launch of a new car-sharing initiative at the site. The ‘Double Up’ scheme already operates across other areas of the business and aims to encourage car sharing by matching staff who register via the npower car-share database. Calculations reveal that doubling up with a colleague on a ten-mile commute to work can save around £400 per person each year. At the npower Solihull site, car sharers are also eligible for a priority space closest to the office building, providing the best opportunity for a quick and simple arrival andnpower takes departure each day. See our article on page 12 for other sustainable travel ideas.Red Nose callsStaff at the npower SME call centre in Hullhandled around 2500 calls from Red Nose Day Number one by 2015donors on 15 March, helping to secure around npower is committed to becoming number one£66,000 for good causes. “After we were chosen in the industry for customer experience by 2015,as the regional call centre by Comic Relief, according to new CEO Paul Massara (above).120 staff volunteered to answer the phones Businesses go online for advice “In the past we’ve been an engineering-ledand process donations from the public,” explains The npower blog is now receiving thousands of hits, company and we were known as number oneBen Jones, Head of Service for SME. “Although despite only launching a few months ago. “Our aim is for investment and innovation in the UK’sthe call volume was high and we had to remain to respond to visitor demand,” explains Amrit Seehra, infrastructure,” says Paul, who stepped into theextremely focussed, there was a really great npower SME Online Marketing Lead. “What’s great CEO role in January. “From now on, we’re a newatmosphere and sense of shared purpose.” about online content is that it’s easy to see what’s customer-led business and we want to be number popular and also get instant feedback from visitors.” one at this too.”Call centre staff also raised £1500 themselvesfrom a wide range of activities including a cake Energy saving topics are of particular interest to The comments come amid a complete companybake, fancy dress and karaoke event and a businesses, so Amrit’s team has launched an energy transformation in which all processes are beingraffle – and some staff even volunteered for a efficiency series including how to save energy in key redesigned to make sure they reflect customersponsored head shave. npower also donated areas such as lighting and refrigeration, as well as feedback and drive customer satisfaction. There is,£5000 of corporate funds to Comic Relief. targeted posts for different business sectors. admits Paul, much to do. “Energy companies must“This is a great example of how well our people “It’s great to see how popular the blog has become do better”, he says. “The changes we need to makecome together to support such worthy causes, and we encourage all our business customers to visit are not going to happen overnight – but watch thisand I’m really proud to be involved,” says Joel and to let us know if there are any space – the changes start here.”Chapman, npower Executive Relations Manager. topics they’d like us to focus on,” concludes Amrit. 4 5
  4. 4. Hot topic Hot topicPlanning for successRecent research commissioned by npower suggests planning isn’t a priority formany SMEs. Yet, as business journalist Mark Williams finds, it can make all thedifference to survival and future growth.Your average SME owner or manager might be A useful road mapgood at many things, but planning doesn’t appear “Research tells us that new companies that planto be top of the list. Research carried out recently are 60% more likely to survive their first year,on behalf of npower suggests that 57 % of SMEs and businesses with a sound business plan growonly plan for the next 6 to 12 months, with just as much as 30% faster than others. Planning is9% looking beyond three years. More than half key to success in business.”(55%) wish they could plan further ahead, but57% say an uncertain economic climate is the As Parsons points out, having an up-to-date planmain barrier to doing so. helps you understand how well your business is doing, by comparing actual performance againstThe old adage would have us believe that failing to data points. “For example, your business mightplan is planning to fail, yet for 21% of respondents, need to turn over, say, £10,000 a month to achievebusiness planning isn’t a priority and 42% say the objectives set out in the first year of a three-they do not have the time or need more internal year plan,” she explains.resources if they are to do so. Track your objectives tendency to think the plan needs to be ‘right’, in that it conforms to what a business plan If your business plan is to have any credibility, To implement your business plan effectively, “If you don’t have a plan you can’t make informed ‘should be’. But the plan needs to be about the financial information must stand up to closer Parsons recommends having clear objectivesdecisions about how to take your business your business and its development strategy. scrutiny. Any claims, forecasts or projections linked to tactics, with responsibility assignedforward,” warns Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo must be rooted in reality, not fantasy. Parsons to individuals within your business, with dueAlto Software, global market leaders in business “Also, you’ve got to adjust your plan over time, recommends putting enough time and energy dates stated. She adds: “You need to regularlyplanning software. “You’re simply setting yourself because things won’t always pan out as you’d into finding out “the real numbers” and other key review and track those objectives against yourup for what could prove a painful journey, which expected. It’s about understanding results – information that explains your business, its market, results. It helps you understand where youcould lead to failure.” good and bad – accumulating intelligence and people, objectives and development strategy. are and whether you are on track to achieve harnessing it to improve your plan and help your objectives – including making sure the grow your business over time.” In terms of length, Parsons says ten pages is often people assigned with responsibility are about right. “Your plan should be broken down performing effectively.” So what final pieces of advice does Parsons have monthly for the coming 12 months, then annually for small firms? “Think of your business plan as a for years two and three. Beyond that, there’s too Parsons says some mistakes are common. tool that can help you to run and develop your much uncertainty for your plan to be sufficiently “Number one is too many businesses don’t business more effectively. The second it stops reliable. Review your plan at least once a month write a business plan – or they write one when Sabrina Parsons being a tool, it becomes irrelevant,” she concludes. and update it once a quarter,” she advises. they start up but never update it. There’s also a CEO of Palo Alto Software 6 7
  5. 5. Hot topic Energy efficiency Quick steps to help save on energy Most organisations can reduce their energy consumption by up to 20% through better managing their energy use and investing in cost-effective measures. But where to start? We ask npower’s Energy Auditor and efficiency expert Andrew Fletcher to share his top tips across three popular business sectors. Chris Wildman, Managing Director of Paganum Case study Chris Wildman is the managing “You have to set aside enough time when Hotels, pubs and restaurants Offices writing or updating a business plan, which can director and founder of Skipton- be a challenge when you have so many other • ook to zone heating – fitting thermostatic L • void blinds down and lights on – blinds A based online farmers market things competing for your attention. Writing is controls to heating equipment such as radiators are often used to cut out glare but what in different areas can help you cut back on frequently happens is lights are then turned, which sells only part of it; you must research the facts, overheating and overpaying for energy. For bars on when the sun goes in. Using daylight Yorkshire Dales produce to especially when it comes to financial information. and lounges, 20-22˚C is the ideal temperature, blinds can solve this, as these redirect consumers and trade. “I update my plan at least once a year. 22-24˚C in restaurants and dining areas, 19-21˚C natural light onto the ceiling and prevent “We started the business five years ago and Unless you update your plan it’s no use to in guest bedrooms, 26-27˚C in guest bathrooms, glare simultaneously – and many also have produced a start-up business plan. That forces you, things change so quickly in business and 19-21˚C in corridors and 16-18˚C in kitchens. perforated blades to allow a view outside, you to think about what your business is and often things don’t turn out as expected. One of which appeals to staff. my most popular items now is Yorkshire Chorizo • Reduce hot water waste – firstly check you are where it fits into the market, as well as test sausage, which is a new development. Revisiting not overheating your water – 60˚C is optimal • ower down – turning off electrical equipment P whether your business is financially viable. your plan enables you to assess how well your for staff and guest use and is sufficient to kill overnight and when not in use can make “I had some experience of producing business business is doing, and change your objectives off the Legionella bacteria. Then look at installing considerable energy savings as well as plans previously, but I looked online for advice and or strategy if necessary. My business plans have tap controls in communal areas to prevent hot prolonging lifespan. Switching off just one examples. You can learn a lot from other business certainly proved highly useful tools, I strongly taps being left to run. Spray taps and water- computer and monitor out of hours can reduce plans, although, obviously, you have to input your disagree with those who tell you that business efficient (aerating) shower heads can also reduce running costs from £45 a year to just £10, own information when writing yours. plans are a waste of time.” the volume of water without diminishing for example. Perhaps look at using stickers user experience. to remind people. 8 9
  6. 6. Energy efficiency Energy efficiency “Simply turning off lights, heating, ventilation and air conditioning when they are not needed can reduce energy bills by as much as 10%.” Andrew Fletcher Garden centres and florists Three quick wins for all • on’t waste heat – if you are growing D plants in a warmed environment, make 1. Turn it off! Simply turning off lights, heating, sure you keep doors and windows shut ventilation and air conditioning when they and regularly check timers to ensure your are not needed can reduce energy bills by as system operating hours match what you much as 10%. actually require. Using simple time switches can help to automate this process so that nobody forgets. A 1˚C error in the control 2. Review lighting – low-energy alternatives temperature can also increase heating costs to existing lighting could bring considerable by 8%, so check this is appropriate too. savings. For example, changing from halogen spotlights to LEDs could save up • aintain refrigeration equipment – when M to 80% in energy and reduce maintenance using refrigeration to keep flowers and plants costs too, as they last many times longer. fresh, it is important to ensure any debris is removed which may restrict airflow around the unit as this can lead to fridges consuming 3. Appoint a champion – asking for a volunteer more energy. Also make sure it is set to the to help spearhead efficiency measures and lowest optimal temperature needed encourage other staff to save energy can to maintain the quality of your stock. make all the difference when it comes to changing behaviour in your workplace. For more help and advice, log on to 10 11
  7. 7. Green spotlight Green spotlight Green is for go Small changes could set your business along the road to a strategy for greener transport. Motoring expert Simon Hacker offers some handy route markers. A cost-effective transport plan can help your Be a friendly spy business in many ways. It’s a broad issue that If your fleet feels like a juggling act, Telematics can fans out into how employees access their work, help maximise efficiency. Using satellite positioning what and how they drive, how you deliver your to record on your PC exact vehicle locations, product or service and, ultimately, how you’re plus such data as speed, makes this a popular perceived by current and potential clients. tool among large fleets. And with connection now As a consequence, wise management can be coming in as low as £170 per vehicle, telemetry is daunting. But there are easy steps to develop increasingly within reach of smaller operations. Is it sustainable transport practices, while the green? Certainly – if you have drivers out and about, change can bring immediate savings and you can assign delivery or collection jobs according trigger a raft of benefits which can extend to their exact location, saving time, fuel and vehicle wear and tear. Be-spoke solutions? When you must drive… beyond the balance sheet. Despite the impetus and initiatives from Sustrans Consider investing in electric vehicles (EVs) or hybrids. Wise-up your drivers Simply stay in ( and local government, EV benefits could make your transport emissions- Despite repeated initiatives to encourage Department of Transport statistics reveal that free – and make a bold corporate statement your The Energy Saving Trust (EST) offers free advice only 1% of employees cycle to work. Consider customers can see. Perceptions of limited ability, as for small businesses to help steer along a greener working from home, latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows 57.5% of us still join shower facilities and secure bike storage to make npower’s head of e-mobility Jonathan Woodthorpe road. Sometimes, solutions can be small yet this healthy option more practical. explains, can be misleading: “Most EVs now offer a powerful. Minicab firm Addison Lee offered its the logjam and drive to work. Nevertheless, the Confederation of British Industry says more and range of 90 miles between charges, which extends drivers a 50-minute training opportunity with Aside from the sizeable cash benefits, cycling well beyond the UK’s average daily drive of 8.4 economy experts from the EST. With a sharper more businesses now offer teleworking schemes. brings a healthier glow to your working team – miles.” npower and parent company RWE have focus on techniques for improving consumption, BT believes this boosts productivity by up to 20%, and speaks volumes about your company image. installed 1900 charge points across Europe and a the firm’s average mpg rate shot up from 38 to while cutting absenteeism. You can sign up to the government’s cycle scheme new npower tariff enables EV charging for around 43.7, with some drivers achieving 40% more. ( to help employees to get £1.20 from home. Typical savings against fossil-fuel If it’s vital for staff to be on site, car-sharing can The firm said the change was a revelation: tax-free savings of up to 42% on new bikes. powered vehicles equate to 90% – go to npower’s slash employee travel costs and free-up parking “We were amazed at how a few simple techniques On average, a cycling employee cuts your own calculator at to work out space for clients (see page 5 for more on npower’s – like lifting your line of vision or looking ahead a company’s emissions by 225g/CO2 per week. the benefits. own car-share scheme). The ONS says average little more – could make such a difference.” vehicle occupancy is just 1.09 people per car, Cautious, mpg-friendly driving also spells a so the potential for developing an in-house scheme reduction in accidents and lower insurance to buck this trend is huge. DID YOU KNOW? premiums. As Jakes de Kock, Marketing Director The Energy Saving Trust gives advice for small businesses, including a free health check from a fleet As an option to by-pass the entire costs of providing of Fuelcard explains: “The techniques taught are expert, typically finding savings to the tune of 20%. It is also actively looking for businesses to take wheels for workers, car clubs can offer a lean solution. inherently defensive, so fleet managers often find part in research for plug-in fleet options. Organisations like are keen to collision and incident rates reduced, along with work with small enterprises. vehicle wear and tear.” Call 0845 602 1425 or visit 12 13
  8. 8. How to… Beat the late payers Chartered accountant Elaine Clark of provides practical advice on how to limit the chances that late payment will affect your business. 1. Know your customer 4. Take appropriate action Carry out a credit check when you acquire Add to your knowledge of late paying customers. new customers that request credit. Because Are they going through a difficult time or is this circumstances can change – often rapidly – their usual modus operandi? Being patient could repeat the process, at least once every six help you to keep a good customer, but there is a fine months for customers that expect high-value balance between allowing more time and having a credit. Also, find out about their business history. customer abuse your credit terms. Don’t be afraid What do their accounts look like? What about of limiting future supply to late payers until their the directors or owners of the business – account is back in balance. Also consider arranging have they been involved in a failed business? additional payment terms (eg a set amount each week to clear unpaid debts). As a next step, consider 2. Limit your exposure factoring the debt or using debt collection agencies. Depending on your type of business, you could There will be a cost, but at least you may get most ask for a deposit upfront or cash on delivery for of your money back. goods or services supplied. Develop clear but short credit terms. They don’t have to be 30 days – less 5. Be more selective is perfectly acceptable. Communicate your credit Many firms worry about turning business away, terms with all orders and sales. especially in this day and age. But if people end up not paying you, they’re not customers. And for others, 3. Don’t make the problem worse you might have to consider whether extra time spent Monitor your sales ledger and debtors’ balance (ie chasing overdue/unpaid debts really is worth it. people who owe you money) closely. It will help you to see how much is outstanding and how long payment is overdue. Checking your sales ledger Elaine Clark should be a daily task. When money is due – chase, Chartered accountant chase and chase again. Don’t delay. Develop standard chase letters and a clear credit control policy. Use a polite reminder first; a quick phone call is best, leading to more serious and constant reminders if you still haven’t been paid. 14