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updated: 5/4/2011 5:36 AM

Businesses begin to adapt to high gasoline prices

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What to do about high gas prices?

Late last year, Tasty Catering replaced its four oldest delivery vans with four new Ford Transit Connect commercial vans.

"We have 50 to 100 deliveries spanning the Chicago metro area on any given business day," says Tom Walter, CEO of the Elk Grove Village company. "Our CFO worked the numbers. We'll save about $18,000 per year" in fuel costs.

At Entrees to Excellence, Inc., a Shorewood-based online provider of gourmet food gifts, concerns about the high cost of gasoline mean "we're doing more work at home," according to President Larry Wagener.

In fact, more telecommuting is one of the main ways smaller and mid-size businesses are responding to high fuel prices -- including industries where working at home with a laptop isn't the norm.

"Even in manufacturing, we're seeing more and more admin people telecommuting," says Kevin Doyle, president of 3Points, LLC, an IT consulting firm in Countryside. "Everyone's asking us, 'How do we get more mobile?'"

One answer, Doyle says, is use of Virtual Private Network or similar technology. VPN, he says, "allows a secure connection to the office server and full access to files" from essentially any remote location -- including, for example, your client's site.

Ultimately, our personal pocketbooks are the ones being flattened. "Freight costs are going up and getting passed along," says Tony Battaglia, who manages a temporary controller-CFO service for BIK & Co., a Vernon Hills accounting firm. "Businesses have to find a way to pass those costs on to the end user.

"You and I, Jim, are the ones who will really feel it."

Tony and I and almost everyone else are the consumers who already pay the true cost of higher gasoline prices -- at the pump and at the store. Realize that employees are consumers, too, and it's not surprising many companies are looking for ways to help workers reduce their gas station pain.

Karen Codere has some ideas. A senior HR specialist at Insperity, Inc., Codere is on the telecommuting bandwagon, though with an acknowledgment that not everyone can work from home.

"Some positions require peer to peer interaction," she says.

Insperity, once known as Administaff, is a Houston company that provides HR-related support to smaller businesses. Codere's corporate home is Insperity's Rosemont regional office.

Among her ideas:

• An earlier or later start to the workday. "Either allows employees to miss rush hour and use less gas because they're not tied up in traffic," Codere says.

• Lop a day off the workweek. Four 10-hour days rather than five eight-hour ones cover the same amount of work time but feature a non-commuting day.

• WebEx meetings, essentially webinars, can keep everyone connected without driving to the office or some other central location, Codere says.

• Contact Jim Kendall at JKendall@121Marketing Resources.com.

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$ 2011 121 Marketing Resources, Inc.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$

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