Trust your gut, but get input from those you trust also. Getting thoughtful feedback is really where the positive changes start to happen.

 

Kelly Bedrich is the co-founder of ElectricityPlans.com, NaturalGasPlans.com, and President of Cypress Capital Ventures. He is an IT entrepreneur focused on acquiring, marketing, and improving retail e-commerce sites. His current emphasis is on taking ideas in the retail energy sector from startup to maturity with sustainable business benefits.

Kelly is skilled at building and executing strategic initiatives by leading global product teams and guiding technical teams to bring results-oriented businesses to life. He has been recognized for his extensive IT leadership success on projects. He is driven to build and develop efficient operational sites that maximize sales and marketing pipelines through low cost of customer acquisition and high retention.

Kelly has over 20 years in IT management spanning the public and private sector. He received a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Texas A&M University and a masters in Management Information Systems also from Texas A&M University. Wanting more out of his hybrid business/technical background, he co-founded Cypress Capital Ventures in 2015 as a portfolio company to purchase and develop sites that address what he calls “obvious problems”. Starting his own firm was a life-long dream and allowed him to shape the company’s core values that he observed through life-long learning.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

My family and I live in Texas and in most parts of the state you get to choose your electricity provider. About 3 years ago on our electricity contract renewal date, we went to the well-known site run by the state to choose our new energy contract. We were overwhelmed with teaser rates, misleading legal terms, and general confusion about what contract would actually be best for our home’s usage. We thought there HAD to be a better way, so we started a database of contracts that we could use ourselves to compare. That ballooned into a website that we could transparently compare rates and the rest is history.

We currently operate two energy shopping sites – ElectricityPlans.com and NaturalGasPlans.com. ElectricityPlans currently serves residential and business customers in Ohio, Connecticut, and Texas. NaturalGasPlans currently serves residential and business customers in Ohio, Michigan, and Georgia. Both sites are expanding to additional states in 2019.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My day is a mixture of writing, marketing, site enhancements, and communicating with our electricity partners. Our entire company is currently virtual, so we’ve eliminated all commuting (which is huge in Houston). Our team is spread out across the country, so we handle almost all of our project work via Basecamp and occasional video conference calls. I honestly can’t remember the last meeting that we’ve had that lasted over an hour or had more than 5 people in it. We make decisions very quickly and are nimble enough to change within a very short period of time.

I also get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and eat a reasonably healthy diet. Keeping a high energy level is amazingly important to bringing an idea to life.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Our ideas usually come from our customers. For example, one of our most popular site features is a free shopping service for our Texas customers. The feedback we get from this service is eye-opening because we get to hear exactly what the customers are looking for, what are their roadblocks, and how we can make shopping even easier. We can take ideas that come from inputs like this and turn them into actual features on our site in a very short period of time.

Also, we treat almost all site enhancements as experiments that we monitor closely. If something works, we try to find a way to push it. If something doesn’t work, we can quickly remove it or try another iteration of it. This gets really interesting when you have multiple markets (states) and multiple commodities (electricity and natural gas).

What’s one trend that excites you?

Renewable energy is growing rapidly and the retail prices are roughly equivalent to non-renewable. Carbon emissions by electricity suppliers are a huge issue and using renewable energy in your home and/or business is a great way to offset emissions. Also, improvements in energy storage solutions may be the single most important energy trend to follow in the next 5-10 years.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I always question someone’s true intent. By getting an accurate reading on intent and motivation, you can quickly drill down and communicate effectively. Also, I live by the 24 hour rule: all personal messages (text, email, or voicemail) must get a response within 24 hours, even if it’s simply an acknowledgement and a promise to provide more information later. This establishes trust and helps develop relationships.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Staying up to date on the latest technology trends is important, but really focus on HOW those technologies solve real world problems. It sounds obvious, but when you match a customer pain point to a viable (key word!) technology solution is when opportunities come up.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

The best time to run in Houston is at 6pm, even in August!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Trust your gut, but get input from those you trust also. Getting thoughtful feedback is really where the positive changes start to happen.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Energy sales is a very competitive business and many electricity providers have been burned by unscrupulous, aggressive energy brokers. We pride ourselves on being easy and honest to do business with, and that’s provided a sense of trust with our electricity providers.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

It’s more of a “pre-entrepreneur” failure, but I hesitated for years to move out of corporate world. It was a relatively safe, but unrewarding career. Looking back, the major opportunities that our company has acted on were also available for many years prior to our launch and I regret not changing sooner.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A waterproof white-board that you can install in your shower. Seriously, someone make this.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A new pair of running shoes! It’s sanity in a box.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

When we were first architecting our site, we did a lot of proof-of-concept work and architectural modeling with WordPress to be sure that it was the right content management tool for our site. Site structure, scalability, and ease-of-use were all important to us. WordPress has turned out to be the smartest technical move we made and has served us very well.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“A Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander. Published in 1977 but more than stands the test of time. It’s a very methodical, thoughtful book about best practices for designing things (in his case it’s towns, buildings, and other construction). Before you build anything, spend some time with this book for clean inspiration.

What is your favorite quote?

“For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” – T.S. Eliot

Key learnings:

  • Innovation is Everywhere – Don’t set aside time to be innovators. Listen for and experience innovation as a part of your every day life. Think critically about the world around us and encourage creativity.
  • Do The Right Thing – Expect all projects and tasks to be delivered when they’re promised and pride yourself on doing the same for others. Demand reliability and quality in all work. Honesty overrules insincere politeness. Examine yourself inwardly to understand your own individual strengths, mistakes, and passions to know the best way to work with each other.
  • Be Easy To Do Business With – Know the value of long term relationships with your customers and partners. Live up to our promises and strive to stay ahead of the power curve. Communicate promptly and effectively.
  • Change Is Good – Change breeds opportunities. Change also challenges how you do things and is by its very nature uncomfortable. Continuously feed your curiosity by surrounding yourself with industry rockstars to find unique opportunities.
  • Love What You Do – Look for people whose work makes them complete by stirring their inner drive and fulfilling their best aptitudes. Believe that your work allows you to be part of a much bigger picture and give back to those in need.

Connect:

https://electricityplans.com

https://naturalgasplans.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shopelectricity

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shopelectricity

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/electricityplans.com

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