Since the onset of deregulation, energy brokers have been accustomed to receiving gifts, expensive meals, and lavish trips from suppliers in the name of relationship building. This quid pro quo approach can drive energy brokers to favor one supplier when selecting a winner at the end of a supposedly competitive bid process. Not only does this barrier to objectivity diminish the focus on the needs of the client, but it also produces subpar results that erode the entire value proposition of energy deregulation.Thankfully, there is a better way. From the onset of our company, we implemented an “8-5 Rule” that has kept our team members free and clear from facing this moral dilemma. This policy states that no member of our team, including senior management, accept gifts, dinners, entertainment, or trips from any supplier, except for the occasional meal and meeting during traditional working hours. Furthermore, when we do meet with a supplier for breakfast, coffee, or lunch, we often pay the bill as a symbol of our appreciation for the role the suppliers play in helping to serve our clients.
Our strict adherence to the 8-5 Rule caused initial friction with some suppliers as they struggled to gain any special advantages with our team members. Over time, however, many of our strongest supply partners came to understand that the best way to earn more of our business is to provide stellar service, products, and billing to clients while also working closely with our internal team to address on-going needs and opportunities. Suppliers that are consistent, solution-focused, and that genuinely care about the client experience are well-positioned for continued growth within our client base.
Prior to the launch of 5, I managed sales for a large electricity supplier in Texas. In that role, I was one of the suppliers taking brokers on trips and buying them expensive dinners to “earn” their business. I did not start off with that approach, but I eventually caved to the pressure and found that the more I gifted the brokers, the more they selected my company as the winning supplier. I cannot change the fact that I was once a part of the quid pro quo machine, but I am proud that our 8-5 Rule has kept our team’s objectivity in place while also serving as light to brokers and suppliers in our industry who also recognize the need for a new and better approach.