Small changes pay off for businessesSmall changes by area businesses are leading to big savings. Employees at Basin Electric, for example, traded expensive Styrofoam cups for ceramic mugs. At Open Road Honda, they’ve started printing on both sides of the paper. At Hellman Brothers Men’s Clothing, employees have reduced their travel expenses by a third.
By: By Crystal Reid, The Bismarck Tribune, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — Small changes by area businesses are leading to big savings.
Employees at Basin Electric, for example, traded expensive Styrofoam cups for ceramic mugs.
At Open Road Honda, they’ve started printing on both sides of the paper. At Hellman Brothers Men’s Clothing, employees have reduced their travel expenses by a third.
“I think that what we see is businesses watching the national economy very closely,” said Kelvin Hullet, president of the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce. “At this point, they don’t feel like it has had a tremendous impact on North Dakota, but they are looking at their business and determining how they can be more efficient.”
After facing daunting bills, skyrocketing energy costs and fee-heavy shipping costs, Annette Caldwell at Open Road Honda decided to bring budgeting down to the basics.
“We’re in an interesting market where both our expenses are going up but income is going down because sales have dropped,” Caldwell said. The market for big-ticket items has slowed in the area, she said, but not significantly.
“The national economy news has people worried, even though they may not feel the effects of it right now,” she said. Her business experienced a slight decrease in sales this season over last year, she said.
Caldwell began to look at fixed costs, to see what could be shaved without sacrificing the product or business model. She and her staff found that using the postal service instead of higher-priced delivery services was far more efficient when mailing in-state, for example. They found a Web site called www.shippingsidekick.com that all employees now use to figure out the most efficient way to ship.
They also began to reuse paper, cardboard and storage boxes.
Randy Hellman, at Hellman Brothers Men’s Clothing, said his business is doing everything it can to cut baseline expenses without sacrificing their service or product.
“From a cost standpoint, we’re just controlling everything that we can possibly control,” Hellman said. “We have to have merchandise to sell for the new season. We’ve stayed on plan and have not gone over that.”
He has started cutting travel expenses though, only going to two markets this year instead of the traditional three. He’s working with a bare-bones staff, he said, but will need to add a part-timer for the holidays.
Hullet said most businesses are eyeing their energy efficiency going into the winter. That means everything from thinking about shutting lights off at night to changing to energy-efficient bulbs, as Hellman has done.
Workers at Open Road Honda are unplugging everything that’s not in use, such as chargers, surge protectors or other appliances.
“One charger is not that big of a draw,” Caldwell said. “But when I walked through and counted all of the things that are plugged in ... it was pretty alarming.”
Energy savings and cost saving measures at Basin Electric Power Cooperative over the past couple of years have ranged from heating and cooling systems down to motion-sensitive lights. Bathroom lights are motion-sensitive, fixtures have been replaced with lower wattage bulbs and employees are encouraged to turn off lights when leaving their offices.
Overall, Basin’s more than 15 energy efficiency measures will save more than 1.6 million kilowatts this year, enough to power 150 homes, said Daryl Hill, a spokesman for the cooperative.
“Sometimes a series of small changes can lead to great things,” Hill said.
At Basin, humidifiers operate only during the winter months and only eight hours a day, and the company’s windows have been re-caulked.
Caldwell said it’s about being intuitive with your spending, but not something you think about until you’re faced with tough financial times. The savings and stable pricing is passed down to the consumer, too, she said.
“My analogy is, when the river is high, you don’t see the rocks and you don’t see the sandbars,” she said. “But they’re still slowing down your flow. When the river is low, you see the rocks and the sandbars, and you got to dig them out to make it go faster.”