Abe Issa burst on the business scene in Fort Worth in 2015 when his company Global Efficient Energy was listed at No. 32 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies, the second-highest ranked business on the list in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
He’s back in 2017 with EnviroSolar Power, ranked No. 2 on the list, which shows 2016 revenue at $37.4 million and a three-year growth rate of 36,065 percent. It’s not exactly a new business, he said. The legal entity started in 2012 but only recently became the flagship for solar smart home energy.
When he got into the energy business he thought leading with efficiency was a good philosophy, Issa said. That led to hiring work crews to do encapsulation insulation in attics and other modifications. And the commission-based sales force was guaranteeing customers a reduction in total energy costs.
“What we learned is that you can’t control how somebody’s going to use energy, so you can’t do any kind of guarantee on savings with energy. We learned the hard way that you can’t do it that way – leads to a number of complaints and issues,” he said.
Issa says he has a team working through some of those issues he faced at Global Efficient Energy.
“We’re getting through them,” he said.
Issa says he’s leading with solar now and jobbing out any construction that might be involved.
“We’re providing large solar systems for homes and we are doing very little energy management and smart home technology,” Issa said. “We integrate energy management smart home technologies with the solar and we don’t guarantee savings. We just show what the solar production is supposed to be based on the size of the solar systems.”
There’s a government website that will make those calculations – the National Renewable Energy Laboratory or NREL (pvwatts.nrel.gov). “It tells you what the different production is in the different parts of the country for different homes,” he said.
The sales staff is in-house now and more under his control, and the construction and installation is left to outside professionals vetted by EnviroSolar Power.
EnviroSolar Power is operating out of cash flow now, which is admittedly difficult because the business is capital intensive. “It requires a lot of cash to buy product, buy material, invest in leads, and customer acquisition costs are high,” Issa said. It can take 45 to 60 days to install a project from sale to final inspection.
Follow-up with the customer is important, he says, because some solar companies are like the gypsy roofers who show up after major hail storms – they sell the contact and then move on to another area, leaving the customer without support.
But those customers are spending a lot of money and it is important to keep the relationship going after the project is installed, Issa said. That’s easier to do with an in-house sales force.
Looking back on Global Efficient Energy, Issa says he thinks he had the business model wrong. But he learned from that experience, he says.
“We’ve set up a really, really cool model with how we do it now and that’s a scalable model across the country,” Issa said.