New research reveals that while small business owners are concerned about the price of utilities, more than half (52%) of SMEs – 2.54 million businesses – do not know what they spend on electricity, gas and water as a percentage of their overheads. The study, published by the UK’s leading energy and water consultancy, Utilitywise, shows that only one quarter (25%) of small business leaders can easily see how much electricity, gas and water their business is using and less than a third (30%) are able to access energy consumption information.
The research highlights that more than half (66%) of small business owners delegate utilities purchasing and management to other staff, including their office manager. 17% of respondents reported that they look after utility suppliers themselves, yet, more than one in ten small business leaders (11%) admit they do not know who in their business is responsible for this important overhead. This is despite the rising price of utilities remaining the main source of cost inflation for over half of all small businesses (53.8%)*.
When it comes to energy purchase and consumption the data shows a lack of understanding and engagement amongst small business owners:
- Business owners review their personal domestic utilities provision more regularly than they review the supply to their business (30% versus 20% respectively)
- Worryingly, 14% of small business owners never actively review their utilities provision which equates to 684,469 businesses across the UK that have never considered how they might get a better deal on gas, electricity or water
- When compared to other products and services such as broadband, recruitment agencies and stationery, utilities has the highest percentage of small businesses that report they ‘never review their provision’
- 68% did not know the difference between a fixed and flexible energy contract
Commenting on the findings Utilitywise’s Michael Dent said: “Our study shows there is a lot of confusion about utilities amongst small businesses. Misinformation and misunderstanding mean small businesses are suffering because they don’t know how to navigate the utilities markets nor have the consumption necessary to act for themselves. Poor buying and management of utilities stops growth and damages businesses’ bottom lines.
“To tackle this, we have introduced the Utilitywise Energy Alliance, a new service that uses the collective buying power of thousands of small businesses to get the same competitive energy deals as larger companies.”
By grouping small businesses together, the Utilitywise Energy Alliance gives SMEs the simplicity of a fixed energy price with all the advantages of buying energy flexibly on the wholesale market. Business owners are made aware of the budget price before they sign up, but the trading is done by an experienced team. This means customers will not pay more than the budget price, but may pay less as the budget price is flexed down each year to reflect the buying gains of the business.
The Energy Alliance also offers energy monitoring products to help small businesses control their energy consumption. This is in response to the survey data that shows SMEs are keen to understand more about their energy consumption across their business: 69% of business owners stated that they believe a staff energy awareness programme could reduce consumption by up to 20%.
Michael Dent adds: “With over 17,000 business clients we know the issues they face when it comes to utilities. By keeping our customers close we make sure that our solutions work for every size of business in every sector. That’s why the Utilitywise Energy Alliance is specifically designed to help small businesses get a good value procurement deal and lower their energy consumption. By spending less time worrying about their utilities SMEs can spend more time and energy growing their business – just through making one call to us.”
Utilitywise has made it easy to access the new Energy Alliance product through one simple call after research by the Federation of Small Businesses that claimed that two thirds (65%) of small businesses surveyed think it is difficult to switch energy supplier.
According to Utilitywise’s latest research working with ‘a trusted intermediary’ ranked highest (21%) when small business owners were asked what would make then consider alternative utilities providers. Small businesses also cited finding a trusted organisation as the hardest thing about finding any kind of new supplier (24%), followed by navigating the sales environment (21%) and the time it takes alongside the day job (19%).
- 1,000 small business owners and decision makers were surveyed by OnePoll on behalf of Utilitywise between 21 and 28 August 2014
* Federation of Small Businesses Voice of Small Business Index Q1 2014
** Small business figures based on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills publication ‘Business Population Estimates for the UK and Regions’. It shows there were 4,889,065 businesses with fewer than 250 employees at the start of 2013