Don’t Let the High Temps Get You Down

A few tips to help businesses survive the height of summer
Illustration by Tony Healey

Keith Twitchell spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.


It was a bad sign when the thermometer crept up to the 90s by the end of May. Now it’s August, the sidewalks are melting, tempers are flaring, and many entrepreneurs are struggling with the effects of the summer heat.

This is the perfect time to look at some ways you can beat the heat, so grab something cold and read on.

Stop the bill spike.
It’s not a joke that summer utility bills cause real problems for a lot of businesses. Fortunately, Entergy and other utility companies offer programs where you can average out your bills for the past year and pay that amount each month instead. Level billing provides some cash flow predictability, which can be helpful with budgeting.

Much better, though, is to reduce your summer cooling bills. So, keep that thermometer set around 78 degrees: it will save a significant amount of money, compared to the typical 70 to 72 degrees that most buildings seem to prefer, and it’s still plenty comfortable. It’s actually healthier as well; no one likes going from steaming to freezing every time they go through the door, and bouncing between these extremes makes people more susceptible to summer colds (not good for staff productivity, either).

Using curtains or shades to keep the sunlight from blazing in also significantly reduces cooling bills. Turn off lights in rooms not in use, and you may want to conduct a general review of the energy efficiency of any appliances as that can result in year-round cost savings.

The Mediterranean custom of midday siestas has never taken hold around here, though there are some local businesses that do close down for a couple hours at lunch time. This may be just as well, because given our celebratory culture, siesta hour could easily bleed into happy hour and then the whole afternoon is lost. However, for businesses with more flexibility in terms of hours of operation, or for staff working remotely, staying shuttered during the heat of the day in summer months may be worth considering.

Of course, you could always just install a pool and let your staff work in it — just be careful to avoid computer-induced electrocution.

Manage the Malaise.
Even as utility expenses are going up, many businesses experience summer revenue doldrums. While this is most true in the retail and restaurant fields, other industries face the same problem. Some of the slowdown has to do with customers being away on vacation, but there’s also just that general heat-induced malaise that keeps people from doing much of anything that requires movement.

Overcoming this can be viewed as a creative marketing challenge. For example, certain restaurants offer some pretty nice summer deals to draw diners out of their nice cool homes. So, what can your business do to entice customers to brave the heat?

A few creative options include:
• Offer a free bottle of water for all customers — hydration is important!
• Pass out hand fans with your logo and website URL on them.
• Give all customers a coupon for a bag of ice at one of our local grocery stores.
• Have a prize drawing for a free one-week vacation in Antarctica.

If all else fails, you can always host a pop-up snowball stand in your store or office. Nothing attracts New Orleanians in summer like shaved ice and syrup!