Ten tips for improving business efficiency
In tough trading conditions, businesses can take manageable steps to improve efficiency and reduce risks — as Mike Jenkins explains.
1. Go green: The Renewable Heat Incentive should drive sales of heat pumps, and the Government’s new Green Deal, starting next year, is expected to encourage demand for energy-saving measures such as boiler upgrades, improved heating controls and insulation. Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has warned, ‘There’ll be no place for cowboys to get a foothold,’ so keep an eye out for news about required accreditation, quality marks and insurance-backed warranties.
2. Review annual overheads: Look again at the business overheads you renew every year. As one good example, many building-services businesses could obtain better insurance cover at lower prices by switching to an insurance broker who knows our industry and understands what cover you really need. HVCA Unique, provided exclusively to HVCA members through Oval Insurance, has given companies savings on their premiums of up to 30%.
3. Get NIC exemptions: To reduce employee costs, make sure you are obtaining the National Insurance Contribution exemption for holiday pay. Businesses engaged in ‘construction operations,’ including the installation of building services, can save more than £300 per year per employee (on average) through the Welplan Holiday Pay Scheme. But take action now because this exemption is scheduled to end in October 2012.
4. Uphold the law: By reminding customers of their statutory obligations under the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations, you could generate more work in the inspection, servicing and refurbishment of air-conditioning systems. Find out more about the requirements for Energy Performance Certificates and Display Energy Certificates, and how to become accredited as an energy assessor, from independent national assessment and certification body BESCA.
5. Keep up to speed: Knowledge is power, and knowing more than your competitors can be a commercial advantage. Keep up to speed with new products, regulations and industry trends by reading trade magazines and websites. For more detailed analysis of how legislation and government schemes, such as the Green Deal, will create new commercial opportunities (or threats), subscribe to the electronic newsletter einsidetrack. You will also receive informative e-newsletters as one of the benefits of HVCA membership.
6. Get certificated: Is your company risking prosecution by handling stationary refrigeration, air-conditioning or heat-pump equipment containing f-gases? To do so, you must be registered with a Government-approved f-gas certification scheme and must obtain full certification by this July. Customers will expect it of you — and bigger customers will expect more, which is why membership of the Refcom Elite voluntary scheme is proving popular as a way of demonstrating best practice. Visit www.refcom.org.uk to find out more.
7. Avoid expensive accidents: Accidents at work can be costly — not just through lost productivity, but also as a consequence of civil prosecution, financial penalties and civil claims. To minimise these risks, it is essential you comply with the COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Regulations. The new HVCA COSHH Management System is an indispensable web-based resource giving access to all COSHH assessments relevant to hazardous substances used by the HVACR industry on and off site.
8. Demonstrate skills and safety: To gain access to many construction sites, contractors and service providers first need to prove their competence, skills, qualifications, and conscientious approach to workplace health and safety. This can be demonstrated by individual workers carrying the Engineering Services SKILLcard, a credit card-sized skills passport confirming skills and competence in the mechanical-services sector of the building-services engineering industry. More information at www.skillcard.org.uk.
9. Build better business skills: Effective leadership is crucial for businesses, especially when times are challenging. Management development training is a cost-effective investment, and the leading UK training provider for the building services engineering sector, BEST, can help managers ensure their businesses achieve optimum productivity and organisational goals. As an Approved Centre for the Institute of Leadership & Management, BEST delivers ILM Level 3 and Level 4 Management qualifications.
10. Visit HVCA Business Plus: HVCA Business Plus helps businesses in the heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and refrigeration industries improve their efficiency and profitability. HVCA Business Plus brings together the diverse range of services, guidance and advice available from the Heating & Ventilating Contractors’ Association’s group of companies under one virtual roof at www.hvacbusinessplus.co.uk
Mike Jenkins is group co-ordinator of HVCA Business Plus.