When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and lockdown was announced, Dr Terence Lewis of Energyst Consulting was affected quite dramatically and yes, there was a degree of panic! But although it has been a challenging time, and to date he has slipped through the net of all the grant options available, there is a silver lining.
This is his story:
i have a strong background in eco-consulting and project management for multi-million-pound international projects, but in 2005 I chose to go it alone and specialise in pure lo-carbon energy efficiency work.
In 2015, I accepted an invitation to work with Southend on Sea Council on a two-year renewable energy and sustainability project. During this period, I successfully deployed many holistic lo-carbon energy projects for schools and other council buildings.
Unfortunately, the Council’s funding for this project ran out in 2018 so I rebranded and re-launched my business as Energyst Consulting.
The practice continued to grow from what was effectively a start-up.
And then, less than two years into my new business, just as all my hard work in building the company was beginning to come to fruition, COVID-19 struck!
Due to my age and health issues, I had to go into self-isolation immediately. And, unsurprisingly, projects were cancelled and/or put on hold.
My cash flow took a major hit! I applied for various grants and fell through the cracks “NO GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR ME”
Sadly, I am sure this resonates with many of you? And, I must admit, initially I took it very badly. However, I continued to pray and trust God – then a few of my clients contacted me and asked if I would be able to keep the projects ticking over. That was a true answer to prayer.
Changing my business model
And so, as one must in these situations, I picked myself up, brushed myself down, gave myself a good talking to, and started working on my business to develop a model that would be fit for the future.
As we are moving into “A Brave New World,” I recognised it was time to do things differently. I transitioned my practice into a predominantly home-based online consulting practice. I will now only have direct face to face meetings when absolutely necessary, even when the COVID crisis abates. 75% of my business can be conducted via Zoom, emails, and phone. In many cases, my client can save money right at the beginning of a project by taking a few photos and measurements themselves.
These actions are essential at the moment, but I intend to maintain this way of working which ultimately benefits me, my clients, and environmental impacts of travelling etc.
Clients will be able to initially approach me via the web site, email or phone and book a free on-line consultation. Throughout the consultation, both client and I will decide if we can work together. Based on a positive agreement from both sides I offer clients a “monthly payment plan” over an agreed period based on pre-determined “milestones” being achieved. This creates a symbiotic “win-win” and my new client does not have to find large amounts of upfront money for my services.
Providing ‘energy management as a service’ via a monthly fee includes project managing any larger projects. So, for example, enabling works such as purchasing solar panels are outsourced by competitive tender. I assist the client to evaluate the offers and the client pays the contractor direct. I quality manage on the client’s behalf.
The key business benefits
For the client, as the project progresses their monthly savings from the environmental actions introduced will accumulate and contribute towards my professional fees. And because of my contents within the industry, a longer-term relationship means that I am often aware of grant programs and special offers that I can pass on to the client resulting in huge benefits.
For me, it is beneficial to have a spread of clients all at different stages in their various projects and paying me on a regular monthly basis. This gives me cash-flow resilience which is far better than the peaks and troughs of my previous trading model.
The positive side to these challenging times
As I was looking at a fresh way of working, other potential opportunities came to light such as on-line training and specialist coaching including Energy and Environmental Management and Energy Managers’ courses. I am currently brushing up my delivery skills to ensure a seamless delivery via Zoom!
Like many others, I am looking forward to getting fully back to work. And although the process has been painful, I am delighted that the pandemic gave me a reason to look at my business with a critical eye.
I hope that other ORB Members have also managed to find a positive side to these challenging times!
For large commercial buildings, hospitals, schools, clinics, local and national governments, we can offer clients the option of FREE solar panels, biomass boilers, heat pumps, and combined heat and power CHP systems