Between economic woes and natural disasters, the pain at the pump has gotten all too acute for many American consumers in recent months. Although most media reports on the problem have focused on the impact of rising gas prices on individuals and families, many small business owners are beginning to feel the crunch, as well.

Whether it is gas subsidies for your traveling sales team or skyrocketing mail and delivery costs, chances are good that rising gas prices are taking a chunk out of your profits. Although politicians and energy industry leaders have proposed a number of short- and long-term solutions to the problem, it’s unlikely that any of them will be implemented soon enough to ease the mounting pressure in the foreseeable future.

That means it’s up to small business owners and their employees to think of new ways to reduce or balance out rising gas costs. With a bit of ingenuity, it’s definitely possible to scale back your budget and minimize your fuel-related expenditures. Here are a few tips to help you get the ball rolling.

Be a savvy consumer.  Whether you’re talking about fuel, delivery costs, or other gas-based expenditures, it’s important to avoid the trap of sticking with one familiar source without any research or due diligence. Often, there are significant price differentials between stores. Encourage your team to seek out and stick with lower-cost providers, such as gas stations and parcel services.

Plan your routes carefully.  When it comes to fuel conservation, a little planning goes a long way. Mapping out your route in advance helps lessen the risk of getting lost, which can be a major drain on gas. In addition, it may be worth it to design fuel-saving routes that pack in as many errands, deliveries, service calls, or client visits as possible at one time.

Cut your losses.  If the nature of your business makes it difficult to conserve gas or cut back on fuel costs, seek out alternative ways to recoup your losses. Some small business owners recommend looking for gas station credit cards with reward points, or local service stations that offer loyalty programs.

Eliminate or scale back site visits and deliveries.  Today’s technologies allow businesses to communicate and exchange data and information in many different ways. Take a long, hard look at your policies for on-site service and sales calls. Try to brainstorm new ways that you could limit or eliminate some of these trips using alternate methods of communication or information exchange.

If all else fails, consider raising prices.  If rising gas prices are proving to be prohibitive for your firm and even the most thorough fuel-use audit hasn’t helped you cut enough corners to scrape by, consider targeted price and fee hikes. Rather than imposing an across-the-board increase, you could apply fees and surcharges on a handful of fuel-intensive or delivery-related services, such as on-site tech support or equipment delivery.

Have rising gas prices impacted your firm? What are you doing to beat the cost of fuel? Give us a few of your favorite fuel-saving tips in the comments.

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  • Anonymous says:

    Why is Novell putting feel-good articles like this in Cool Solutions? This belongs in Helpful Hints from Heloise, or some other such place.

  • rholder says:

    I’m sorry Anonymous that you didn’t find some value in the article. These started out exclusively for our partner community were it was suggested our greater Novell community might find value. We hope many will find a few gems as they read Michelle’s blogs.

By: mvessel
Oct 9, 2008
6:59 am