Posted on: 02-23-2011 at 3:19pm
by Stream Energy Director of Field Development Michael Tacker
Here at Stream Energy, as you may be aware, we market our energy services through a network of Ignite Independent Associates. I am one of those in the Stream Energy corporate office who works directly with these Associates. In fact, I have long worked with small entrepreneurs and have thus come to know what works for them. Today, I would like to focus on an important topic for all of you small businesspeople out there and that is goal setting and implementation.
Business success books are stuffed with tips on goal setting. Unfortunately, much of that advice is really geared toward long-range planning, and not the immediate needs of the small businessperson.
Although every small business certainly needs to know its long-range plans, goal setting itself should be more of a quarter-to-quarter activity. That’s because most people running a small operation (say 1-10 people) cannot plan effectively beyond about three months. Short increment goal setting works for businesses with limited resources and provides such smaller enterprises with the kind of flexibility and personal energy that is needed in today’s fast-paced business environment.
Now that we have limited the focus of goal setting-activities to more manageable chunks, it becomes easier to focus on day-to-day efforts. We’ll use a salesperson as an example. If you have been in your business for any length of time, you of course know about how many calls it will take to set an appointment and, further, how many appointments to close a deal. So you just break that down to set your schedule of what needs to be done each day. Let’s say you’ve determined, for instance, that you need to set five appointments a day. Sometimes that will take five calls, and sometimes it will take 25. Regardless, those five appointments are your base. Just focus your numbers, and the results will follow. Be activity focused, not results focused, and move forward, confident that the model you have established actually works.
That sounds simple, right? Almost too simple, in fact. And therein lies the rub.
The good thing about being your own boss is that no one is watching over you. The bad thing about being your own boss is that no one is watching over you. Thus, you have to manage your activities on your own. And you have to actually set aside time for them, not just perform them on the sidelines of life (i.e. after the kids’ daily playground trip). In other words, just because you are not punching someone else’s clock doesn’t mean you are altogether free from the clock. If there is no formal structure in place, then you have to create one and live by that which you have created.
Sure, you can cheat the clock a little every now and then by sneaking out to the museum or running an errand. Nevertheless, you have to hit your numbers. (You’ve heard about the proverbial penny that doubles every day. Take a few days of doubling out of the mix and the total number at month’s end is not only smaller, but exponentially so). In other words, you just have to establish discipline. It may sound like a bad word, but after a few weeks of focused activity, you’ll have established some strong habits that bolster your new goal setting and implementation practices. After that, just bring on the next quarter, because you’re ready!
Posted on: 02-16-2011 at 4:32pm
By Managing Director of Wholesale Operations Eric Hendrick
With deadlines to face every day, life in the Wholesale Department at Stream Energy is a little hectic. It’s like living a game of chess—every move is highly calculated and the pressure is on to stay two steps (or more) ahead of the competition.
The deadline I refer to is largely an everyday goal of being perfectly hedged during the process of submitting our energy load requirements.
Every morning, Stream Energy must submit its requirements for the following day directly to AGL and to suppliers who act as Stream Energy’s scheduler (or QSE). This process ensures the firm has forecasted and procured enough energy to meet the needs of every Stream Energy customer. However, the load requirement submitted is simply an estimate of how much energy will be used. If the firm forecasts too high or too low, profits shrink or possibly throw Stream Energy into the red, i.e. “Checkmate.” Inaccuracies or errors can prove costly to the firm, its 260+ employees, and the thousands of Ignite independent network marketing associates that all rely on Stream Energy in order to provide for their families. To say we have to get it right is an understatement.
Many variables are taken into account before we submit our daily schedules or procure power for our customers’ future needs (“our daily move”). We must have an accurate count of the total number of customers Stream Energy provides service to in all three states in which we currently offer service—Texas, Georgia and Pennsylvania. If the customer count is inaccurate we may forecast and submit a load requirement to the supplier or pipeline that is too low or too high. With that said, we could be buying too little or too much energy then we actually need and ultimately we could cost the company thousands of dollars of profit in just a single day.
Also, the price of natural gas must be taken into account each day. It may sound strange to anyone unfamiliar with the energy industry, but the price of natural gas is typically what drives the price of electricity. If natural gas is trading high, electricity rates will be higher and vice versa. With natural gas currently trading fairly low, electricity rates have stabilized over the past year or so at more affordable rates to consumers.
Our customers’ historical usage data and ten-year weather patterns are also analyzed daily before we make our move on the proverbial chessboard. Hypothetically, a customer who lives in a large home in Texas is going to use much more electricity to cool that home in August than in April. Having accurate weather data and historical usage for each premise we provide service to greatly assists our ability to forecast so we can provide our supplier with an accurate load requirement and/or purchase.
The most challenging part of the Wholesale Department’s job is ensuring that purchases and physical flow equal load. We have to buy timely and forecast correctly by purchasing the right amount of energy from the grid at the right location and price. This ensures a successful future for our firm with the ability to expand into new markets.
I can’t stress enough the importance of ensuring that Stream Energy is hedged properly. When our forecasts and purchases are set and we see that our forecasts are coming in correctly, it is a great feeling of accomplishment. We feel very proud because we have assured Stream Energy’s future for all employees and Ignite Independent Associates, and they can continue to enjoy the financial and job security they work so hard for every day.
The victory and celebration are short lived, however. The next move to avoid Checkmate is always only one day away.
Posted on: 02-09-2011 at 1:59pm
By Stream Energy Senior Director of Communications Paul Thies
Okay sure, I’m the PR guy and so you’ll no doubt expect me to toot our horn, but Stream Energy and Ignite really have built a pretty amazing business success story in a short amount of time.
The company has been in business for six years and in that time has become one of the largest electricity providers in Texas (one of the largest energy markets in the WORLD); expanded to Georgia and Pennsylvania (with more states coming soon); and generated several billion dollars in revenue. We’ve won or been nominated for some pretty significant awards, like Platts and Ernst and Young; received a sizeable amount of media attention; and even launched one of the largest New Year’s Eve fireworks displays in the United States.
Pretty “Big Time” stuff, for sure.
There are also the many stories of people who, having gotten into the Ignite Opportunity, have seen their lives and their fortunes enhanced by the residual income generated by their customers’ energy bills. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars in residual payouts to the everyday people you find living in your neighborhood.
But in giving this some consideration, I think that some of the significant things that separate our firm from other companies are the little things we do.
A specific example that I’m referring to is our practice of giving people the card.
By “the card” I’m talking about birthday and employment anniversary cards.
We have in the neighborhood of 260 Stream Energy employees. And for each one of them our boss, Stream Energy chairman Rob Snyder, personally handwrites a card for their birthday or Stream Energy anniversary.
It may not seem like a big thing at first glance, but I can tell you that this simple gesture has made a profound difference in the spirit around here.
Think about it. How often has your boss even remembered your birthday, let alone given you a card? And when the CEO of the company writes you a personal note – and I mean a real note, not simply “Happy Birthday” – well, I don’t know about you but I haven’t seen many CEOs in my professional career who take the time to do that FOR EVERY ONE OF HIS EMPLOYEES. All the way down the line.
I really hand it to Rob for doing that. Personally, I’m good about writing cards for my wife and kids, but that’s about it. This guy is writing them for everyone in our corporate office. It makes people feel appreciated. And that’s one of our competitive advantages. Our employees know that they matter.