Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Entrepreneurial Spirit Series: Sue Pierce

The Entrepreneurial Spirit Series

Sue Pierce

In this series of interviews you may hear similar ideas, passions, wants, or needs repeatedly. Why do suppose that is?

Perhaps it’s because these people all truly have that Entrepreneurial Spirit. Take Sue Pierce, an energy behavior management consultant.

To Sue the Entrepreneurial Spirit means one word. Hope! As an entrepreneur, Sue always believes that here in America she can use all of the talents God has given her to take an idea she has and with that idea…create a business.

“If I have a vision, work hard, and am passionate about what I do, the possibilities are endless. I came from Iowa to the big metropolis of Phoenix as an unknown. I came from being a big fish in a small pond to the big pond.” Could she create a reputation in Phoenix that would be as visible and respected as the one she had in Iowa? This is where hope comes in. She wasn’t sure but she was hopeful! Now four years later it is happening! What did it take? An Entrepreneurial Spirit and faith!

Sue’s business is as an energy behavior management consultant to commercial entities with a specialty in education. What does that mean? It means she works with people within a facility on changing habits and embracing a culture of conservation. Things like turning off lights, shutting down computers, keeping thermostats within a given temperature range, unplugging chargers and other items when not in use are all items Sue addresses with schools and corporations.

In addition, she works with facilities to recycle and identify ways to not use disposable items in the first place. “Do I need to print this letter or can I read it electronically?” “Do I need to use a plastic baggie or could I store leftover food in a permanent container?” Wow! Sue tells me that we are so programmed to waste. Her company works with staff and students to change these habits. Ultimately changing these habits impacts the bottom line and means money for the facility.

As an entrepreneur, Sue must grow her business. To do that she needs to create amazing results to demonstrate her energy behavior model really works. Thus, reputation (documented by significant results), word of mouth and speaking engagements are the best ways for her to grow her business. After creating amazing results with her first client, Sue published a book about it and has been asked to speak and educate others on how to duplicate what she created at Washington Elementary School District (WESD). This first client has created over $4,000,000 in avoided electric energy costs through her program and dollars saved speak loudly! Now Energy Star (EPA) and other national entities ask her to do their national training webinars.

So why does she do what she does?

“If I want to be totally honest, I work for money. If I did not need money I would be traveling around the world right now! Setting money aside, I love what I do. I can help struggling school districts save money which in turn means saving teachers jobs in an economic time when money is tight. As a CPA I have this sick passion for helping organizations squeeze savings out of operations. I do not know where this passion came from. However, I get tremendous satisfaction from implementing my programs and monitoring the bottom line.”

Ahhh…passion. Now we see the Entrepreneurial Spirit emerge.

Sue says her passion is purpose. She wants to be on purpose. “Have you ever read Wayne Dyer’s books? He insists that we all were brought into the world to do something that we were chosen into before we were born. What an interesting thought. Before I was born, I was having a conversation with God and he was asking me what I wanted to do on earth. I told him I wanted to help society by working with organizations to help them save money and be more efficient. I went on to say that I was especially sensitive to struggling school districts. If I could save them money, more teachers could work with our children. We are inspired to play a role in this world. This is my destiny and in the end, I want to make a difference.”

Wow. That’s passion.

Sue goes on to tell me she has thought about passion and what it means. Looking up the official definition, this is what she found. Definition of passion: 1) any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate. 2) strong amorous feeling or desire; love; ardor. 3) strong sexual desire; lust.

For Sue she knows her love language is service to others. This passion evolves from a desire within to serve others. She loves to serve others by creating amazing results. She loves to accept the risk of attempting what others have not attempted. She loves to be able to quantify those results. Successes are very satisfying for Sue…thus her passion.

When asked what drives Sue, she tells me…right now, money is a huge motivator. “I am fortunate to be physically healthy and to have high energy. I get bored easily and am always looking for new challenges and mountains to climb. I thrive on achievement and results. I am a bit competitive and likely to take on a dare if it serves me or my purpose. Let me give you an example. In Phoenix, Arizona the utility companies insisted that geothermal technologies would not work because of the hot temperatures. Whereas through the United States, geothermal heating and cooling systems were becoming more and more commonplace, Arizona thought they would not work. As a transplant from the Mid-West who had built a geothermal home and several geothermal schools, I challenged the utility companies in Arizona. I worked with a team of people from Texas to install a geothermal pilot project at Desert View Elementary School in Phoenix, AZ. The system went live in January, 2011. And guess what. It is working. The governor’s office and the entire state of Arizona are monitoring the results. I am streaming data from our sub-metering system and geothermal is creating a 50% reduction in electric use in our school to date. These opportunities drive me.”

Does risk come into play or are you afraid of risk? Sue has always taken on risks in the work place. And she tells me she always will. “Sometimes it takes someone with a big vision and belief to make it happen. I know that if I believe when others do not and keep taking a step forward, miracles can happen. Let me tell you a story. I approached the superintendent of the Washington Elementary School District in spring of 2008 and asked her if I could design and implement an energy behavior management program. I told her I thought we could save 10% in our electric usage budget. She gave me the green light. I went to the school board with an energy policy and the same goal of saving 10% in electric use. They approved the policy and goal but told me they thought it could not be done. Twelve months later the district had reduced energy usage by 15%. And now in year three, the district has reduced energy usage by 31%. This has been an avoided electric energy cost of over $4,000,000. How did this happen? It happened because I had a big vision and was willing to risk failing to find out if we could do it.”
So did she take a risk when she started her business? Yes…but. She tried to minimize risks when first starting. She had been approached by many potential clients to do work for them in her “off” time. When the requests became significant enough, she quit her job and launched her own business. “I figure at the time I had enough work to support myself for 6 months.”

Would she do anything different if she could? She tells me she made mistakes. The biggest one was trying to do everything herself. That is a cautious strategy, according to Sue. “If I had taken the risk to hire staff to do the minutia (small stuff) and focused on marketing and visioning with my time, I could be a much wealthier person right now. However, I was penny wise and pound foolish.”

Is Sue successful?

She tells me success is happiness, peace, joy, quality relationships, personal growth, faith in a God who is so great and powerful, a loving family who really enjoys spending time together. She also says money is important but her definition of success is essential to a life of fulfillment and purpose. “In a world where we see so many people who are relationship poor, I am blessed with a great loving spouse who I have been married to for 37 years, a devoted family who I spend lots of time with, friends, work and purpose. These are the non-negotiable parts in life. I can lose money and find money. However, those who have not invested in loving healthy relationships over the course of time, end up very lonely and desperate.”

Sue also sees herself as an expert in various areas. That expertise comes from her experience and a bit of trial and error over the years. “For example, I am an expert in raising boys. As the mother of four very different and unique boys, I acquired a lot of expertise. I am an expert T-ball coach. I became an expert soccer cheer leader and car pool driver. I learned how to become an expert advocate for boys in trouble with teachers. I am an expert volunteer at church and school. I am an expert weight loss coach. I am even a bit of an expert in supporting schools in developing energy behavior management programs.”

To me…that equates to success.

Does she have any advice for those just starting out in business? She would like to tell people to take something you love, think about it every day for at least an hour, and create an idea for a business. You will never regret it.

When asked if she sees herself as having Entrepreneurial Spirit, Sue soundly says “Yes…perhaps out of necessity. I realized early on that I was a mis-fit! I really did not fit into the corporate mold. It was easier for me to take my own ideas and create my own companies. And it has worked ever since.”

What do you think? Does she have that Entrepreneurial Spirit?

Definitely…I could hear it in her voice.

If you want to learn more about Sue and her business please check out http://www.energyplanning.org/.

This series of articles was commissioned by Upward Trend and written by Wendy VanHatten, a nationally published author, editor, and writing coach.

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