An ambitious alternative

Sussex-based consultancy Greenfields Energy Group, headed up by Richard Clark and Liam Conway, is helping firms overcome soaring energy costs

Richard Clark
Liam Conway

Tell us about Greenfields Energy Group and your story.

“Like many startups, we had both worked in our respective areas of specialism for some time but felt there was an opportunity to offer something different and the only way we were going to do this was to go on our own.

“That’s how Greenfields Energy Group was launched back in August this year, with the remit to offer an alternative to established energy consultancies that had forsaken ‘personal relationships’ in pursuit of larger margins.

“Our philosophy is simple – to help companies navigate rising energy and utilities costs by combining the latest technology and an expert eye for savings with long-term partnership building. We want to get under the skin of the customers we work with to understand what they do, their growth plans and the risks associated with day-to-day trading.

“The five key services we offer include energy procurement; risk management (managing energy risk with business risk to find the ‘operational’ cost); sustainability & compliance (ensuring you are ahead of the legislation, rather than lagging behind); a bureau service where we work with energy suppliers on behalf of the client; and metering, site works and monitoring.

“If we do our job right, it means management teams can stop worrying about energy and focus on doing what they do best – running their business and fulfilling customer requirements.”

What inspired you to join forces and launch the business?

“I can’t remember a time when energy costs have been so topical in the business community, with many firms quoting them in the top three most pressing issues they are facing. It’s not difficult to see why either, with some manufacturers reporting 400% increases on their bills and no sign of those costs decreasing anytime soon.

“We’d talked about the potential of going on our own for a while and it became really evident how much the clients we were working with relied on our advice and guidance during the energy crisis. Whilst we always tried to do everything we could to help, we were hamstrung being part of a bigger company and not in complete control of client delivery. Starting up Greenfields Energy Group changed all that.

“The other important element of our partnership is the fact we both bring different skill sets to the table. Liam is often referred to as the frontman and responsible for going out there, building relationships and winning new business, whereas Richard is the one with 20 years’ experience of in energy procurement.

“Between the two of us, we have worked with hundreds of companies across industry, leisure and hospitality, securing £millions of savings over that period. Importantly, we can also work with management teams to help them work towards their sustainable goals/net zero journey.”

What have been the highs and lows of your journey as a startup?

“One of the biggest hurdles is having the conviction to leave well-paid roles and established systems to start something new. It dominates most of your waking thoughts and there are a lot of ‘learning-on-the-job’ moments, we have found.

“However, we feel we’ve handled the startup process relatively well, immediately getting to work at developing the branding, website and, most importantly, putting in processes. Those building blocks had to be in before we could start winning clients and we are really pleased to say they are all now in place – probably a few months ahead of schedule.

“From day one, we have always wanted Greenfields to be about personal, face-to-face relationships and that is why we decided to have a physical office where we could meet clients. We have also explored the possibility of creating a network of intermediaries, who could broker introductions to businesses that might need one or all of our services.

“Finally, energy management is hugely dependent on good quality data and arguably the biggest challenge we faced was ensuring we had robust systems in place to manage the data and present it in a way which meant something to clients. Not just producing graphs for the sake of it!”

How do you see the future of Greenfields Energy Group? What are your goals?

“Several clients have already been secured, which is always reassuring when you are in the early stages of a new business. Importantly, connections we have made over our careers have also said they want to come on board with us so the pipeline of new business opportunities for the next three years is very promising.

“We’re not going to get too carried away though. We believe that any growth must be sustainable, and it must not erode our core values of building personal relationships and delivering excellent customer service. This might sound strange for a startup, but that’s the approach we are looking to take.

“When we bring new clients on, we play heavily to the partnership we have with them and how heavily they can rely on us. We’re never going to get to a point where we compromise our ability to deliver for customers by growing too fast, too soon.

“Over the next 12 months, we are looking to create three new roles to help support the administrative side of the business, and to add additional expertise and experience with new business development and data management. Longer-term, we’d like to make the Greenfields Energy Group the first name companies turn to for personal and trusted advice on energy and utilities management.”

Finally, do you have any advice for businesses?

“There has been a lot of advice handed out recently around energy and utility management and this is costing companies hundreds of thousands of pounds – mainly by being locked into the wrong contract.

“Companies are often only given limited options and those options have hurt businesses significantly. For the majority, fixed-price contracts are no longer fit for purpose in the current energy climate. In fact, we know of one business that is going to spend an additional £2m every year which is completely unnecessary.

“Many organisations are coming out of fixed-price contacts, so now is the perfect time for them to consider a new approach – an approach that is personal, flexible and matches their precise risk/energy management situation.”

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