As the United States becomes more environmentally conscious in the face of global warming, consumers are looking for ways to become increasingly energy efficient. Consider how the average person’s home might be outfitted with LED lights or solar panels. In 2014, renewable energy accounted for about 11 percent of energy production in the United States—what the US Energy Information Administration calls a record high. However, traditional sources for electricity production haven’t been unilaterally tossed: new technologies have made natural gas production skyrocket as well. For those working in the energy industry, the unpredictable role these traditional and nontraditional energy sources have in the future might be a bit anxiety-inducing, to say the least.
One energy executive, however, is more than ready to roll with the punches. Layne Loessin, president and CEO of Entrust Energy, a privately owned retail energy–provider based in Houston, Texas, doesn’t consider the fluctuating market the industry’s greatest obstacle. In fact, Loessin finds the biggest struggle his industry faces doesn’t have to do with energy at all: the most significant issue his company must overcome is customer stickiness.
“Our priority is customer retention. With all the available options in the market, a customer-focused strategy is the true differentiator,” Loessin says.
And if any company is poised to make money on a product people may ultimately want to buy less of, it would be Entrust Energy. The company has been bulldozing forward since it was founded in 2010. The startup’s revenue grew a whopping 5,410 percent, from zero to $132.1 million by 2014. The staff expanded from about thirty employees to 120. In 2015, Entrust nabbed a spot on Inc. magazine’s annual list of fastest growing companies: it held fourth for fastest-growing energy company and forty-seventh overall (the list is of 5,000). It was also the top-ranked, Houston-based business on the list.
Loessin, who took the reins of Entrust in early 2015 as the company’s founder returns to Australia, doesn’t plan on slowing company growth any time soon. In fact, the first-time CEO has three specific goals for Entrust in the coming years. First, he wants to continue developing Entrust’s fast-paced but down-to-earth company culture and attract talent that meshes well with its values; second, he wants to make customers “stickier”—so they have a relationship with Entrust for years rather than months; and third, Loessin wants to grow the business five times its current size.
For this Corpus Christi native, energy is more than just a career. Loessin’s father and brother worked on oil rigs, his uncle at refineries, and cousins with pipelines. “For me, it was a natural thing you grow up around,” Loessin says.
After graduating to a tough job market in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, Loessin was hired as a risk analyst. Unfortunately, his luck was short lived. He worked at Enron for four months before the company crashed.
Loessin landed at Sequent Energy Management, again as a risk analyst. At Sequent, Loessin got his first taste for the startup environment. After two years there, Loessin went to Direct Energy, where he held a series of jobs on the risk management team over about seven years, which allowed him to diversify his experience. He learned about electricity (versus just natural gas), gained foreign exchange experience, and worked with the retail side of the energy world.
“Our priority is customer retention. With all the available options in the market, a customer-focused strategy is the true differentiator.”
But as Direct Energy flourished, it started to lose the brisk startup charm Loessin had grown to love. He grew restless, and, through a connection with a former colleague, he wound up working at Entrust Energy.
Today, as president and CEO of Entrust, Loessin hopes to foster the vibrant startup feel that he grew to love, even though the company itself has largely grown out of that designation. To do that, Loessin has hired an executive team that he believes hold similar values as he does: namely, working with integrity, without ego, and with directness.
Loessin credits his willingness to put his ego aside and learn from experienced coworkers with helping him reach his current position. With hard work and an open mind, he believes it’s possible for individuals entering the energy industry to create your own luck. “You’re going into a dynamic industry where you’re going to be challenged. Be excited about it and be in front of the industry pushing us forward. But do it with integrity,” he says.
By hiring people along these lines at Entrust, Loessin believes they can create a tight team. “We are a very welcoming family company. We hire real people,” Loessin says. “You’re yourself here, which is what I
The good vibes at Entrust are not meant to simply benefit those that work there, but also those they serve. Much of Loessin’s vision for the future revolves around developing positive, genuine relationships with Entrust customers. If customers develop authentic relationships with Entrust employees who provide excellent service and a product that adds value to their everyday lives, Loessin reasons, they’ll be willing to stick around and go to Entrust in the future for other energy needs, such as installing solar panels.
At the moment, continuing to improve the customer experience at Entrust means leveraging the in-house developed billing system and online customer portal where customers can easily manage their accounts and purchase multiple value-add products or services—a sort of one-stop shop. Entrust’s proprietary system plays to one of its primary strengths in the competitive retail energy space, being agile and capturing opportunities not attainable by others.
If all goes according to plan, Loessin hopes to see Entrust grow to five times its current size. “I want to build something that’s much greater than where we’re at right now,” he says. Under Loessin’s leadership, Entrust is on track to do it.