Marc Wendelborn looks at why negotiating new utilities contracts doesn’t have to be a painful process.
Negotiating supply contracts for electricity, natural gas, waste, and telecommunications is no fun. You have to do your homework, have meetings with potential suppliers, negotiate a mine-field of small print, and possibly still not get the best deal available.
This is where a utilities broker can be useful. A broker can provide unbiased, expert advice on the services and pricing across all suppliers, answering questions such as which retailer you should buy from, how to compare confusing contract offers and how to negotiate the right contract terms.
Analysts take your utilities needs to market through an Request For Proposal process and come back with a clear and concise range of contract options with the aim of minimising cost on a ‘like for like’ pricing analysis of all offers. They also look to benefit you tactically by advising and negotiating supply agreements that expire at the best time of the year.
For telecommunications, a utilities broker looks to find the best supplier to meet the current and future requirements of the business. Analysts should follow a transparent selection process with measureable criteria that takes into account reliability of service provider, reduced costs and any other specific business needs.
And for waste services, minimising costs and maximising the proportion of waste that is recycled are the markers of a good utilities broker.
We looked at four businesses using the services of utilities broker Total Utilities Management Group (TUMG) to see how well they’d been served by a broker.
The Textile Centre
The Textile Centre is home to some of the city’s high flying technology, public relations, advertising companies and other businesses. The commercial property business owns properties covering 27,000msq.
Chief Executive, John Morgan, used TUMG to investigate power savings.
“We felt that they would be able to get better market information than we could access on our own. We grew up with Mercury and Vector and felt TUMG would be able to research the whole market independently, rather than us spending time and energy going out and doing the job ourselves.”
“There were no issues around small print at all and the contracts were presented on a like for like basis. All the contracts came back with prices based on between three and five years’ supply. Four companies offered comparative quotes, one of which was dismissed pretty quickly, and our existing supplier actually won back the right to continue to supply the company.”
“We saved about $140,000.”
“The process was very smooth. It’s probably one of the best examples I’ve seen. It was done promptly and there was a visit here to me. We had to provide two or three months indicative billing so they could get the number of kilowatts that had been used and the money paid. Armed with that information they did their research, went out to the suppliers and they were back to me within a fortnight.”
Swimtastic is a learn-to-swim school running structured lessons for pre-schoolers, school age children and adults in a purpose built facility in the Eastern suburbs of Auckland.
“We use a lot of gas and electricity,” says Swimtastic’s founder and director Mark Bone, “and we felt that a utilities broker could seek out the best deal for us, allowing our company to focus on its core operation.”
“The utilities broker talked me through all the contract small print, reducing any misunderstanding and focusing on the best deal.”
“The broker sought out and negotiated the best deal on our behalf. The process was smooth and hassle free. Savings have been significant. It was a fantastic experience.”
Mamaku Blueberries grows about 30 tonnes of blueberries per year for wines, liqueurs, pure juices, jams, sauces, chocolates and real fruit ice cream in addition to offering farm and winery tours.
“We were looking to cut costs and thought we’d give TUMG a try,” says Harry Frost of Mamaku Blueberries.
“Their analyst came back to us with four options, showed us they compared and the savings each offered per year – the best was $4000 a year. That sounded like a fair bit to me.”
“He went through everything pretty carefully, the different situations, rules and regulations, the fine print, which was very helpful as it cut through the technical jargon.”
“Because we were so impressed, we were able to refer them onto other small businesses in the area like dairy farms and so on.”
Onehunga company Galvanising Services Ltd. applies molten zinc as a protective coating to industrial steel to prevent corrosion.
Manager Andrew Lonsdale Cooper says that prior to contacting TUMG he spent a lot of time messing around with different companies and getting the run around.
“TUMG came along and offered me a the chance to join a bulk tender that looked pretty good, because I could jump on board with a whole lot of other small manufacturers like ourselves and take advantage of some economies of scale.
“They negotiated gas and power contracts for us, and the best part was the convenience – it saved me a hell of a lot of time dealing with people in areas outside of my expertise.”
“The process was smooth. The contracts were presented to us in a report that made it easy for me to compare the various offers on the table. There were no problems with small print and ultimately it’s saved me thousands of dollars.”
“Overall, it’s a pretty efficient, effective, reasonable service to have.”
As published in NZ Business Magazine September, 2012