May 01, 2012
Momentis: Bringing Energy and Energy Services to the Masses
by Lin Grensing-Pophal
Quick, think of a product that is used by virtually every consumer and every business in North America. Got it? Energy, right? Energy fuels appliances, lights homes and powers equipment to make products. Not to mention, in today’s digital age, people are more and more dependent on their electronic devices. Americans live with as many as 30 separate energy-using devices in each of their 111 million homes. While energy is something people may often take for granted, a storm that takes out power even momentarily quickly reminds them of how important it is to everyone. And the need is only going to increase.
But companies like Momentis are looking ahead to the innovations of technology tomorrow, offering essential home services that take advantage of the world’s energy-craving, technologically advanced culture. And for those who recognize the value comes the opportunity to save on their bills and help their friends and family save, too.
“Energy is a product that’s very easy to sell because everybody uses energy,” says Mike Adams, Senior Vice President of Momentis. “One of the first bills people pay every month is their energy bill—because nobody wants to be without power.”
While a myriad of direct selling companies sell products and services that are highly valued by consumers, selling energy seems like a no-brainer.
Not that long ago, though, it wasn’t possible to sell energy outside of rigidly defined service areas. With the advent of deregulation, however, energy can be supplied from virtually anywhere, to virtually anywhere.
Companies like Just Energy Group Inc., the parent company of Momentis, quickly realized the implication of deregulation, and with the two working together they are bringing energy and related services to the masses through a direct selling model that has led to quick growth and ample rewards for the company and its distributors.
Independent representatives educate consumers about the benefits of energy deregulation and the wide array of energy solutions now available. But energy is not all they sell.
“Momentis is a direct sales company that sells energy, but we also sell essential home services,” McWilliams says. “We expand our opportunities beyond just energy—everything from satellite TV to Internet phone service. Whatever you have a bill for in your house is a potential service that we offer.” These services include known brand names such as DIRECTV.
In addition, he notes Momentis is able to focus on both residential and commercial energy needs. “We can do the biggest of the big or the smallest of the small,” he says. “There’s space for everybody at Momentis.”
Deregulation Changes the Playing Field
The deregulation of the energy industry has changed the playing field for companies like Momentis and its independent representatives. Removing barriers to the sale of gas and electricity in the United States and Canada, deregulation was originally driven by large industrial organizations that wished to seek lower prices for energy. Energy companies were also on board, seeing opportunity to expand their market areas beyond defined service territories.
In the old days, a single utility would provide all components of a residential or commercial customer’s energy needs: generation, transmission and distribution. Defined market areas limited competition and virtually kept customers captive by one supplier. Deregulation changes that, allowing both commercial and residential customers the opportunity to shop for their energy needs as they would for their groceries, basically. While delivery of the energy is still the responsibility of the local energy company, the consumer can choose their supplier.
That’s what Momentis and its reps help them do. Momentis has headquarters in Toronto and Dallas and is the marketing arm of Just Energy, which was formed in 1997. Just Energy is a $3 billion publicly traded company (JE—NYSE and JE—TSX) that serves more than 1.8 million customers, in 19 markets, across North America, providing energy-efficient programs for both residential and commercial applications. The company provides natural gas, electricity, green energy products, home and energy saving commercial appliances and solar products. Participation in Just Energy’s green energy program for electricity and natural gas helps support locally based green energy initiatives or other carbon-offset projects in proportion to customers’ selected energy use.
Momentis’ partnership with Just Energy represents an innovative approach to bringing energy, and energy conservation solutions, to the marketplace. It has been a partnership that has quickly generated significant success.
By the end of 2011, Momentis was already seven times larger than it had been at midyear.
Momentis headquarters in Toronto.
Andy McWilliams, President and CEO, and Mike Adams, Senior Vice President, strategize with the Momentis executive team.
An Innovative Alliance
Andy McWilliams is the President and CEO of Momentis whose career has been entirely focused on direct sales, starting with the sale of telecommunications services when first out of college. This was during the dawn of telecommunications deregulation, and the timing was perfect.
McWilliams recalls that the experience showed him that the right network marketing company can change the path of families for generations to come. The Momentis model, he says, is about “families helping families.”
“We started Momentis with just a few people and built this company one representative and one customer at a time,” he says. “We grew slowly at the beginning, but we set the foundation for greatness. We pay attention to the individual needs and ‘whys’ of our representatives. We want people to know that they are the most important part of our business.”
Actually the name Momentis was a play on words that the founders chose to describe the phenomenal growth they anticipated the company to have. As independent representatives recruit others and switch customers to the company, Momentis grows creating even more “momentous” opportunities.
The idea for creating Momentis, McWilliams says, was spawned by Rebecca MacDonald, the Founder and Executive Chair, and Ken Hartwick, the CEO and President of Just Energy.
“Just Energy is an incredible company in its own right,” McWilliams says. “Its spirit comes from Rebecca McDonald. She is a woman who believes that life is what you make it. That spirit permeates Momentis. We are a part of Just Energy, and we draw on their success. Their management expertise and financial backing provide us the money to implement the tools we need to make our business thrive.”
Just Energy is a company that has achieved significant success since its launch in the late 1990s. The company is licensed in every deregulated market, and it is likely that every market will eventually be deregulated. This means more opportunity and a chance at grabbing a piece of the U.S. energy market pie, which is a staggering $500 billion annually. Last quarter results already indicate that Just Energy achieved record customer additions of 310,000, up 30 percent from the previous quarter.
The timing was perfect for a company like Just Energy to take hold in the marketplace, says McWilliams. There was a confluence of impacts that made the environment just right for Just Energy.
First, deregulation happened, which meant that the boundaries were removed to selling energy to virtually anyone, anywhere. Second, a strong and growing interest in energy and energy conservation emerged. Third came “a hungry leadership group that has created this idea that the sky is the limit.”
And, finally, there was the realization that energy—and energy-related services—could be effectively sold by a team of independent reps armed with information and support from a marketing arm that could help to leverage growth.
“They were looking for a new way to get good, loyal customers,” McWilliams says. At the time there were a few other companies that had already shown that direct sales could work well in the energy market. They thought: Why couldn’t we do this too? So, in April 2010, Momentis was launched.
The first 14 to 16 months, says McWilliams, were about laying the foundation and learning. “We hit our stride as of Aug. 4 last year,” he says. “That’s when [Mike Adams] and I took over the company.” The company has, he says, “grown exponentially since then.” In fact, total Momentis agents reached 25,300 in the last quarter, up from 11,100 just three months earlier.
McWilliams describes the company as “an energy provider in deregulated markets where there’s electricity and gas, both residential and consumer. Just Energy provides the commodity, the energy—we are the marketing arm.” Momentis reps reach customers that might not otherwise have been reached.
Momentis’ principal product is long-term, fixed-price energy contracts that protect customers from price volatility. Additionally, the company provides environmentally friendly green energy options that give consumers an opportunity to reduce or offset their carbon footprint.
Despite the clear demand for the product and the leadership driving both Just Energy and Momentis, it is the independent representatives that have really driven the success of the company, McWilliams says.
Independent Sales Reps Educate and Inform
McWilliams says he remembers his start in direct selling in 1994. And being with that company helped shape what he brought to Momentis and how the company developed. “What I love about Momentis is that I have had a chance to grow it from the beginning the way we’ve learned from all of our past experiences with what works and what doesn’t.”
What does work, he says, is having a supportive culture that is family oriented and focused on teamwork. The right style of leadership and environment has to be conducive to learning, training and growing in order for the company to be successful. Establishing this type of culture came naturally to the Momentis leadership team.
“I’m an independent rep at heart,” McWilliams says. “I started as an independent rep with this company, so I have a very clear understanding that the field is our most important asset. Every independent rep and their family are what make us special. We cherish them.”
Adams adds, “We all have families and we all became involved with Momentis because we want to do better for our families. If we, as leaders, show how we do that and then work with our representatives in that respect, we will successfully create a culture that supports and leads them in the right direction.”
The reps themselves also find significant benefit from the relationship. One of the big benefits for Momentis’ independent sales representatives is that they have no inventory to buy or store. Instead, their role is to educate and inform. Reps enroll through a current company sponsor and pay an up-front amount. For their investment, they receive a website and training and are certified as new representatives. Reps earn money for each new representative they sign up and earn commissions each month for customers who continue to use Just Energy products and services.
Momentis was built based on a simple premise and is, says McWilliams, a simple business. Sign up new energy customers and build a team of people just like you who are doing the same thing. That’s it.
Ample support is provided to reps both online and through events where they have the opportunity for training and networking. Personal websites provide an online business presence, and an online resource center provides access to reporting and marketing tools. Regularly scheduled conference calls and a customer support center provide additional resources to ensure that reps are armed with the information and support they need to serve their customers.
McWilliams says that his goal is to build a business that has staying power and provides lasting security to the households that choose to build a business with Momentis.
“I want to have a thriving, growing, changing, exciting business today, but also 20 years from now. To do that, every single day is magnified now in the foundational stage. What we—the partnership of the Momentis corporate staff and our representatives—create in the next 18 months will withstand the pressure of time. It’s an exciting time because of all the potential that’s there.”
Momentis Products and Services
If it is, or uses, energy and comes with a bill, Momentis provides it. A wide range of in-demand consumer services provides Momentis’ independent representatives with a variety of sales options.
Ultimately, it is all about energy, so of course that presents Momentis’ core sales item. Momentis sells Just Energy’s long-term energy supply options to about 1.4 million residential and commercial customers in North America.
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