Depending on the nature of your small business, fuel costs can represent a significant portion of your budgeted expenses.
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When fuel costs rise, this can place an undue burden on your company's bottom line. But before you throw in the towel and resign yourself to runaway fuel expenses, you might want to think about implementing some common sense changes that can help buffer the impact on your business.
A little planning can go a long way toward saving your company money at the pump, especially if your company regularly sends sales or service personnel into the field. This might require upsetting schedules and rearranging pre-existing routes. But if it results in greater fuel efficiency it will be worth the hassle.
Eliminate or reduce delivery regions
Some types of businesses require a delivery component (e.g. pizza parlors and furniture stores) while others do it as a courtesy to their customers. When gas prices rise, it is not unreasonable to consider changing your delivery policy. If delivery is a requirement for your industry, think about reducing the delivery range or adding a surcharge for deliveries that are farther away. If you offer delivery as a courtesy to your customers, you may want to consider eliminating it all together.
Carpool to conferences and other events
If gas costs weren't an issue, it would be perfectly fine for employees to drive themselves to conferences and other business-related events. But when fuel prices become a factor, the old rules no longer apply. Encourage – or even require – employees to share rides when the company is footing the bill.
Perform regular vehicle maintenance
Poorly maintained vehicles consume fuel at a higher rate than vehicles that are maintained at regular intervals. Oil changes, tire pressure checks, engine maintenance – they all make a noticeable difference in fuel economy. Do a maintenance assessment on your company vehicles and create a way to ensure that they will regularly serviced going forward.
Encourage clients to come to you
Another way to minimize fuel expenses is to bring your clients to you rather than going to them. This is more of an issue for service-related small businesses and consultants than it is for businesses that sell a shelved product. If you work out of your home, you might want to consider creating a dedicated space that is appropriate to receive clients and furnish it with inexpensive incentives (e.g. specialty coffees) that will keep them coming to you in the future.
Market to customers closer to home
If your industry requires you to travel to your customers, another option is to adjust your advertising and marketing campaign to focus on customers that are closer to your base of operations. This may seem like a radical step, but if it doesn't make a difference whether your customers are located near or far it might be an appropriate one, at least until fuel costs go back down or you are able to reduce costs in another area.