The en­ergy specialist

– The en­ergy sec­tor is a fickle one, es­pe­cially when you are in re­tail. Yet good lead­er­ship can cre­ate a mar­ket leader in a highly com­pet­i­tive and volatile field. Nigel Clark is a very good leader and in a short pe­riod of time has trans­formed Mo­men­tum Ene

Business First - - CONTENTS -

Mo­men­tum is an apt name for a grow­ing com­pany that has been around for a short time. Nigel de­scribes those early, fledg­ling days back in 2006 as crazy, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants times. The es­tab­lished util­i­ties may have con­sid­ered Mo­men­tum En­ergy the cow­boy in the pack, but some­times there’s a syn­ergy in mad­ness that favours the brave. And Mo­men­tum was brave.

Be­fore we look at why Mo­men­tum has only taken a short time to be­come an es­tab­lished leader, let’s first take a quick look at its leader Nigel Clark, be­cause Nigel’s back­ground in­forms much of Mo­men­tum’s rapid rise.

It is go­ing to be hard to sum up Nigel’s ca­reer in a few medium-sized para­graphs. He knows fi­nance and tax; he stud­ied it all those years ago. He then prac­ticed for short stints at Coop­ers and Ly­brand and Ernst and Young, be­fore mov­ing into the real world of busi­ness with Al­coa of Aus­tralia. Al­coa Inc. is the world’s third largest pro­ducer of alu­minum. I don’t know why but it seems to have an iconic place in Aus­tralia’s his­tory, per­haps be­cause of all the cans we kicked when we were kids. So when Nigel ar­rived in the 1980s, it was a great place to be.

“Back then, Al­coa was a pretty vi­brant com­pany, they had a real fo­cus on train­ing, learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment, so I was ex­posed to some re­ally great qual­ity lead­er­ship, train­ing and ex­pe­ri­ences,” Nigel says.

It was here that he was ex­posed to the World Lead­er­ship Fo­rum run in Pitts­burgh for up-and-com­ing man­agers within Al­coa Inc. There he learnt from and was ex­posed to se­nior lead­ers in the or­gan­i­sa­tion through to the CEO of Al­coa and people from dif­fer­ent cul­tures and coun­tries.

He trav­elled the world with the or­gan­i­sa­tion work­ing on a va­ri­ety of as­sign­ments and projects.

“I did a lot of ef­fi­ciency au­dits, in­ter­nal au­dits, and a range of things with re­gard to shar­ing best prac­tice around the world. I got to go and do some work in the USA, South Korea, Brazil and Spain. So, those were all great op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“That was one el­e­ment for which Al­coa is very good — giv­ing you ex­po­sure to lead­er­ship and ex­pe­ri­en­tial learn­ing, but also a lot of emo­tional in­tel­li­gence prac­tices that re­ally gave you an un­der­stand­ing of your own style, your team’s style and how you in­ter­re­late with people. That al­lows you to un­der­stand how you work as an in­di­vid­ual and the im­pact you have on oth­ers.”

“If you look at the roots of all of that, it re­ally does goes back to some of the qual­ity man­age­ment prin­ci­ples, fo­cus­ing on con­tin­u­ous process im­prove­ment and re­ally us­ing that as a mind­set, so I was very lucky to come through and then be grounded in those prin­ci­ples. To this day, I still use many of those prac­tices, tech­niques and tools to help people to think about con­tin­u­ous process im­prove­ment in Mo­men­tum.”

Nigel held a lot of roles at Al­coa. Busi­ness Sup­port and Plan­ning Man­ager, Commercial De­vel­op­ment Man­ager – WA Op­er­a­tions, Cor­po­rate Ac­count­ing and Plan­ning Man­ager and As­sis­tant Trea­surer. He worked his way up to be­come Commercial Man­ager of Vic­to­rian Op­er­a­tions. These were di­verse roles and he grabbed ev­ery op­por­tu­nity as it came along.

“I wasn’t shy in tak­ing on new op­por­tu­ni­ties and test­ing my­self in ar­eas that were out of my com­fort zone that led to growth as an in­di­vid­ual. This is a valu­able les­son for any­body I feel.”

Nigel fol­lowed the same pat­tern when he joined TXU. His phi­los­o­phy is that while the world evolves, people don’t change; the same prin­ci­ples of hav­ing re­spect for the in­di­vid­ual, giv­ing people op­por­tu­nity and know­ing what might mo­ti­vate an in­di­vid­ual or may not still ap­ply.

“Those ba­sic prin­ci­ples of hu­man un­der­stand­ing haven’t changed. So, you can adapt a lot of what you see and learn along the jour­ney.”

He learned about the re­source sec­tor with Al­coa and at TXU was primed to chal­lenge him­self through what he de­scribes as a “fast-paced, in­te­grated re­tail port­fo­lio agenda”.

“The guys that I got to work with were prob­a­bly some of the best in the in­dus­try as far as run­ning a very ac­tive trad­ing port­fo­lio. My first 20 months at TXU were spent on the whole­sale trad­ing side, and that was a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence in a fast mov­ing en­ergy mar­ket that was con­tin­u­ing to be­come de-reg­u­lated.”

The com­pany was then twice sold. First to Sin­ga­pore Power, which split the busi­ness and sold off the re­tail part to CLP, which went onto be­come TRUen­ergy and was sub­se­quently re­named again to En­ergy Aus­tralia.

In three and a half years his roles var­ied from whole­sale strat­egy and an­a­lyt­ics to re­tail strat­egy. Or from the dark side to the light side. While most in the in­dus­try only ex­pe­ri­ence one or the other, the fact that Nigel had both held him in good stead when he moved to Mo­men­tum. And that’s when things be­came re­ally in­ter­est­ing.

He be­gan with Mo­men­tum as a con­trac­tor in March 2006. The com­pany was just over a year old; it was a start up that needed a jack-of-all-trades at a time when util­i­ties were pop­ping up every­where and the mar­ket land­scape was rapidly chang­ing.

When Nigel joined Mo­men­tum it was a pri­vate com­pany with ap­prox­i­mately 35 staff and in the fis­cal year of ’06, rev­enue was just over ten mil­lion. A rocky pe­riod fol­lowed as they burned through cash to at­tract new cus­tomers and build a sus­tain­able busi­ness.

“In ’07, we just fought for our life. It’s an in­ter­est­ing story that most people don’t know. We had all this com­pe­ti­tion and new en­trants com­ing into the mar­ket and then, if you re­mem­ber, we

hit the en­ergy cri­sis and the seven years of drought started to take their ef­fect. So, you had sev­eral hy­dro gen­er­a­tion sys­tems that had ba­si­cally run out of wa­ter; in Tas­ma­nia, NSW and Vic­to­ria. You had sev­eral Queens­land ther­mal power sta­tions run­ning out of wa­ter and the whole­sale en­ergy prices tripled, so they went from lit­er­ally 50 dol­lars a megawatt hour to 150 dol­lars a megawatt hour.

“So we’re a small pri­vate com­pany with not very deep, cap­i­tal pock­ets and the whole­sale mar­ket tripled. We were star­ing down the bar­rel of putting out prod­ucts that cost $150 and go­ing out and try­ing to sell it for the equiv­a­lent of $50. The mar­ket was reg­u­lat­ing people to make a loss, which was just ob­vi­ously not a very sus­tain­able pic­ture, and a lot of mar­ket par­tic­i­pants went into a con­ser­va­tion mode be­cause of their AFSL li­cense con­di­tions. It was a very hairy time. Two re­tail­ers went bust. So we did a lot of nim­ble things very quickly that re­ally pre­served cash in­side of the busi­ness and we sur­vived.”

All the skills Nigel had learned in his ca­reer came to bear dur­ing this pe­riod as he faced the en­ergy cri­sis, then the GFC and on­go­ing reg­u­la­tion and dereg­u­la­tion. It is a mar­ket of con­stant change and not one for the faint hearted. So how was it nav­i­gated? “That’s a re­ally good ques­tion. Reg­u­la­tory-wise, it’s just been a nightmare. If you look at what en­ergy rates are com­prised of, more than half of any bill that we charge to cus­tomers is pass-through of nu­mer­ous reg­u­la­tory schemes and dis­tri­bu­tion costs that we have no con­trol over. Many of these pass-through costs have ex­pe­ri­enced large in­creases in the last five years but it’s the re­tailer that is the ul­ti­mate bearer of bad news to the cus­tomer.

“One of our real is­sues is that we’re chal­lenged be­cause, as an in­dus­try, we are wholly looked on as one and yet we as a com­pany are try­ing to build a strong re­la­tion­ship with the cus­tomer while pass­ing through all these costs that we have no con­trol over.

“So how do we go through it? I sup­pose one, is to be sur­rounded with smart people who are help­ing me scan the en­vi­ron­ment as to what’s go­ing on. I have an ex­cel­lent team at Mo­men­tum and ac­cess to great re­sources within the wider Hy­dro Tas­ma­nia group”.

In Septem­ber 2009 Hy­dro Tas­ma­nia, Aus­tralia’s largest pro­ducer of re­new­able en­ergy, took full own­er­ship of

“Back in 2002, Mo­men­tum En­ergy and Agility CIS were both new en­trants in the Aus­tralian mar­ket look­ing to bring fresh and in­no­va­tive prod­ucts and ser­vices to Aus­tralian con­sumers. Since then both com­pa­nies have ex­pe­ri­enced ex­cep­tional growth, with Mo­men­tum an es­tab­lished en­ergy re­tailer and Agility CIS a leading global util­ity so­lu­tion provider. Nigel is a leader that is con­tin­u­ally look­ing into the fu­ture, analysing op­por­tu­ni­ties and an­tic­i­pat­ing trends. Nigel’s in­sight and abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate is in­valu­able to Agility CIS”

Mo­men­tum En­ergy. Hy­dro Tas­ma­nia has 100 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in en­ergy that has given Mo­men­tum an op­por­tu­nity to of­fer a whole net­work of en­ergy ex­perts and con­sult­ing ser­vices to its cus­tomers.

“Two, we try and par­tic­i­pate through the likes of the ERAA (En­ergy Re­tail­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia) to try and in­flu­ence govern­ment pol­icy to achieve a sus­tain­able and cost ef­fec­tive in­dus­try for con­sumers. Three, we part­ner with qual­ity or­gan­i­sa­tions that have grown with us in our jour­ney and suc­cess.

Part­ners that have been crit­i­cal to the suc­cess of Mo­men­tum over a long pe­riod of time have been;

The T20 Group led by Rod Cur­tis re­spon­si­ble for driv­ing and as­sist­ing the de­vel­op­ment of our Brand­ing and Mar­ket­ing strate­gies and mar­ket ex­e­cu­tion

Bas­tion EBA led by Jack Watts who have de­vel­oped and ex­e­cuted our Mar­ket Spon­sor­ship strat­egy and pro­vi­sion of brand ac­ti­va­tions

Agility CIS led by Mike Thorne who have been since day one our billing sys­tem provider and key tech­nol­ogy part­ner

All of our part­ners are crit­i­cal to the on­go­ing suc­cess of Mo­men­tum. They un­der­stand our busi­ness, our people and our cul­ture to drive qual­ity out­comes. They have had a large in­flu­ence in shap­ing the brand and struc­tures we have to­day. Lastly they are gen­uinely great people to work with.

“But I think the way I ul­ti­mately nav­i­gate it is by fo­cus­ing on the cus­tomer. At the end of the day, if you can keep your cus­tomers on­board and not suf­fer turnover that this in­dus­try’s renowned for, then you’re go­ing to have a fight­ing chance to build a rep­utable brand and a solid cus­tomer base. It’s about try­ing to fo­cus on the trends that are evolv­ing and how you’re go­ing to con­nect with your cus­tomers. It’s more than just sell­ing the com­mod­ity. It’s about be­ing an en­ergy ser­vice provider and be­ing in touch with your cus­tomers’ needs and build­ing a fric­tion­less ex­pe­ri­ence for them when they deal with your or­gan­i­sa­tion. Be­ing Cus­tomer Cen­tric as your core mode of op­er­at­ing is es­sen­tial.”

“When I came into the MD role, it was very much, “By 2020, what do we want to look like?” We have built and con­tinue to build plat­forms that un­der­pin the busi­ness. Hav­ing the right plat­forms, hav­ing the right en­ergy ser­vices of­fer­ing, hav­ing very strong

in­sights about your cus­tomer base and us­ing those in­sights to re­ally shape your fu­ture di­rec­tion will al­low you to keep ahead of the curve.”

Those are three pil­lars that Mo­men­tum fo­cuses on. It’s a chal­lenge, but Mo­men­tum is about hav­ing a cul­ture and an or­gan­i­sa­tion that is nim­ble enough to re­spond to con­tin­u­ous changes. They plot one to two to three year goals against the back­drop of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s cul­ture.

“It’s very much be­ing able to adapt to change very quickly be­cause some of the things im­posed upon us, like the car­bon re­peal that is com­ing is an ab­so­lute leap. We went through months of in­de­ci­sion about whether the car­bon scheme was go­ing to come in. Now we’re go­ing through all the in­de­ci­sion over whether the thing’s go­ing to be re­pealed, so that is a case of some­thing that is out of your con­trol and yet has large im­pact on your busi­ness.”

As part of the Hy­dro Tas­ma­nia group, one of the main tenets of the Mo­men­tum brand is clean en­ergy: how to adopt, how to adapt and how to in­te­grate newly emerg­ing clean tech­nolo­gies in­clud­ing so­lar and bat­tery stor­age. Those trends are now emerg­ing in Europe and across the world as all have the same is­sue about fos­sil fuel ver­sus re­new­able en­ergy and the way for­ward to cleaner en­ergy sup­plies.

“As a group, we gen­er­ate clean en­ergy and we have a unique elec­tric­ity prod­uct on the mar­ket that we call “Smile Power”, which is an in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied prod­uct that is matched with the gen­er­a­tion of clean en­ergy. That is our lead prod­uct that we sell to small busi­ness and moms and dads and we’re very proud of that prod­uct and what we do for Aus­tralia through our Tas­ma­nian based clean en­ergy sources.”

Clean en­ergy is what sets Mo­men­tum apart from its com­peti­tors and one of the rea­sons their pop­u­lar­ity has grown in such a short time. An­other is their no door-knock­ing pol­icy to res­i­den­tial homes which they adopted when they first started. This has built trust and con­fi­dence amongst con­sumers. And as we dis­cussed at the be­gin­ning of this ar­ti­cle, the strong lead­er­ship has also had an im­pact.

Through Nigel’s lead­er­ship, ev­ery­one is on board with brand mes­sage. There are sev­eral key el­e­ments to this. One is that Mo­men­tum is clear about its brand prin­ci­ples.

“We tell it very straight to the con­sumer so that there’s no mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” Nigel says. “We’re clear in our mar­ket­ing of prod­ucts and mar­ket­ing around our brand prin­ci­ples and what we stand for as an or­gan­i­sa­tion.” There is a lot of mis­un­der­stand­ing about our in­dus­try and we aim to make cus­tomer of­fers clear and trans­par­ent.

“Sec­ondly, how we get people swing­ing to the Mo­men­tum cul­ture, if you like, is that we work very hard on the mojo of the com­pany and build­ing a very pos­i­tive and ac­tive en­vi­ron­ment to take on the big guys. I push very hard an in­sur­gent men­tal­ity where the small guys are tak­ing on the big guys. So even though we’re a lit­tle bit big­ger our self now, that’s

some­thing that’s very in­grained in our cul­ture. “

“Part of our cul­ture is that we have fun and cel­e­brate suc­cess. So, we rely very heav­ily on hav­ing a very pos­i­tive cul­ture in what is a very tough in­dus­try. We’re up against 20 re­tail­ers in Aus­tralia in a highly com­pet­i­tive low-mar­gin in­dus­try. We have to be ab­so­lutely on our game and at the end of the day, that comes down to our people. Other com­pa­nies say staff is their main as­set, in our case that’s true. I work very hard with my team on build­ing cul­ture, cre­at­ing ca­reer growth and op­por­tu­nity for our people and cel­e­brat­ing our suc­cess. Our staff at Mo­men­tum is fan­tas­tic.”

Nigel is well known for his pro­gres­sive and achieve­ment-ori­ented ap­proach to run­ning a busi­ness and this is ev­i­dent in the way he runs Mo­men­tum. There are now 260 em­ploy­ees, a grow­ing cus­tomer base and prod­ucts to match. Mo­men­tum’s rise is no mean feat. There may have been a lit­tle luck, but Nigel’s en­com­pass­ing ex­per­tise has al­lowed the com­pany to avoid dis­as­ter, build an ex­cep­tional team around cul­ture and con­tinue to grow.

Mo­men­tum team at the 2013 Cor­po­rate Games

(Photo: Peter Matthew)

Nigel Clark at Gor­don Dam, Tas­ma­nia

Mo­men­tum Sus­tain­able Gar­den at Mel­bourne In­ter­na­tional Flower and Gar­den Show

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