January 23, 2009
Businesses told to lift their game

Local businesses are being encouraged to continue to lift their standards and streamline their operations, even though falling fuel prices could result in a reduction of their operational costs this year.{{more}}

This advice is coming from the Acting Executive Director of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Shafia London, who told SEARCHLIGHT that while the downward trend in fuel prices is good for businesses, they cannot afford to throw caution to the wind.

London said that as the worldwide economic squeeze, including that associated with high electricity costs, affected local businesses, business operators were forced to review their operations and manage their affairs more efficiently to survive.

“We are hoping that even though the cost of operation goes down that the operational systems that they put in place will remain, which will give them a better chance of being competitive,” London told SEARCHLIGHT.

London said that in 2009 it will be important for the businesses to pay much more attention to areas like quality management and customer service, which she said were “critical issues that businesses took for granted in the past, they have to look at now.”

Businesses had to react and continue to react to the challenges that they will face, London explained, but she noted that even if things improve, businesses must be proactive because there are other challenges that they will face in times to come.

She confirmed that 2008 was a very trying year for businesses and all the indicators show that “what is happening now will continue in 2009.”

This is why, according to her, customer service, among other things, must be top priority for businesses.

“We can’t do anything about the external circumstances, but the few customers that you have, especially the committed ones, you have to retain them,” London said.

London said that another key area that the organization will be focusing on is getting its membership to be more au fait with current technological advancements that will help them to become more efficient.

“We are in trying times, but we must remain optimistic. No one wants to be left out,” she said.

London told SEARCHLIGHT that the Chamber also plans to engage in a massive recruiting drive this year, understanding that these trying times demand unity – businesses bouncing ideas off each other.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves last Monday, January 19, announced that fuel prices have been reduced to what is now the lowest they have been since January, 2006, when gas was $9.50 per gallon.

Gasoline, Diesel and Kerosene are now retailing at $9.70, $9.60, and $9.85 per gallon, respectively, down from $11.73, $11.50 and $$12.55, respectively.

London, who also serves as the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Development Officer, told SEARCHLIGHT that the business community is “very happy” to see the reversing of the trend, as it regards the cost of fuel, and is hopeful for this trend to continue.

She said that any good news in the tough economic times is welcome. (KJ)