July 01, 2017
Viridian works to Create a More Sustainable World
by Angela E. Soper
Headquarters: Norwalk, Connecticut
Top Executives: Paul Booth, CEO; Cami Boehme, Partner and COO
2016 Net Sales Generated: $263 million
Global 100 ranking: No. 59
Products: Sustainable lifestyle including electricity, natural gas, solar and travel
Although climate change and its causes may be hotly debated, research shows many believe greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans’ lifestyles are harming the planet. A 2015 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that majorities in all 40 nations say climate change is a serious problem, and two-thirds of those polled believe people will have to make major lifestyle changes to combat it.
Changing people’s lifestyles to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions is the focus of everything Viridian International does. With a commitment to sustainability and minimizing the carbon footprint, the company is proving that green living can help the planet and reward its Independent Associates and customers.
Today Viridian International is dedicated to creating a path to a more sustainable world—its mission from the day the company was founded in 2009. The company launched with a single electricity product and has broadened its product portfolio to include natural gas, solar and travel, with plans to offer more “green” products and services. Its growth has been substantial—549 percent in the first seven years—and much more is on the agenda.
Readjusting Its Corporate Structure
In addition to expanding its product offering to create lives “powered by purpose,” the Norwalk, Connecticut, company has not been afraid to readjust its corporate sails to best serve its over 26,000 Independent Associates and more than 250,000 customers.
Initially founded as a private company designed to give people an opportunity to choose energy that could be affordable and great for the environment, Viridian soon became the network marketing sales unit of publicly traded Crius Energy. In July 2016 the company was acquired by Viridian International Management LLC, a newly formed private company that paid $2 million in cash upon completion of the deal. A promissory note of $4 million was due to the company in 12 months, with additional payments over five years, which will total $10 million. The goal was to expand Viridian’s Associate base, product offerings and geographic reach.
Spearheading the new investment group was Paul Booth, now Viridian International CEO. Booth was very familiar with Viridian because his company, Data Paradigm Inc., had been instrumental in helping it enhance its back office and compensation plan. With 30 years’ experience in network marketing, he knew the channel well and was so impressed with the company he stepped away from his CEO role at Data Paradigm to take the helm at Viridian.
“I saw the opportunity with Viridian,” says Booth. “It just made a lot of sense to take it private so we could so some things that public companies simply can’t be nimble enough to do.” And while the nature of the product was a given for Booth, something a bit deeper spoke to his heart. “It was the people and the culture more than the nature of the product… It was the leadership base [that drew me] and that continues to be the case today,” he adds.
Helping to steer Viridian toward increased growth is Cami Boehme, Partner and COO. Boehme had been Chief Strategy Officer for Crius Energy, working with Viridian Associates. She says Viridian will again operate as a single, focused, exclusive, dedicated brand—with a set of private investors committed to its success. However, Viridian maintains an exclusive partnership with Crius Energy to offer responsible electricity, natural gas and solar to its U.S. residential customers.
For Boehme, Viridian is far more than a business with huge potential to grow; it’s a culture rooted in a desire to create positive change in the world, which began in 2007 with helping people choose responsible energy. “I loved how such a simple idea could simultaneously be so bold,” says Boehme. After learning about the “crazy idea” to make green energy affordable, Boehme says she jumped onboard right away. It wasn’t long before she realized Viridian had become “one of the most inspirational companies to launch in decades.”
Since those early days, Boehme has witnessed the results of this bold plan—clean water for a village in the Rainforest; children playing in a lighted room at night for the first time thanks to a solar installation; and new trees growing in the Amazon thanks to Viridian and its Associates’ reforestation efforts. And, she’s watched timid Associates turn into confident leaders who are making positive changes in their own lives thanks to their Viridian businesses, she says.
Participants in the Amazon Preservation Project take in the magnitude of the forest they are committed to preserving.
From Complex to Simple and More Lucrative
Viridian’s revised corporate structure includes a new compensation plan. The coded compensation plan Viridian had been using is being replaced with a binary plan that goes above and beyond the usual binary that only pays on the volume in the smaller of the two legs.
“We’ve addressed that Achilles Heel, if you will, of a binary by making significant income on the other side as well,” explains Booth. “[The plan] is certainly based on the side that has the lesser volume,” adds Booth. However, he notes, the plan includes a building block component called the Trio, where it’s “you and two,” which creates a replicated effect. This produces a pay line that swaps back and forth, generating significant momentum that allows the plan to pay to an infinite depth on both sides.
Viridian Associates, known collectively as Generation V, are embracing the new plan, says Charla Gervers, Vice President, Leadership Development. “Our senior leaders are beyond excited,” she says. Gervers feels the company is going from complexity to simplicity, which she believes “really speaks volumes, because they ‘get it’ ”—a significant factor since the coded plan was difficult for many to understand and share.
Another feature helping Associates build their businesses and sell products is the Viridian Catalyst App, a mobile app designed to help with prospecting efforts. “It has really changed the game here at Viridian,” says Gervers. “[Associates] don’t have to try to navigate a website to find a document or a video to send to someone. They just have it right in the mobile app that they can text immediately out.”
In addition to the app and the company’s back office system, called the V Center, Viridian supports its Associates by conducting a webinar with all new Associates within seven days of joining the company, by holding webinars for the field monthly and quarterly, and by conducting periodic trainings on new products and services.
It’s All about Responsible Products
From its initial foray into offering a single electricity product, Viridian has expanded to offer responsible energy products in 18 U.S. markets and in Australia, as well as a new travel program called Travel Light. Sustainability and offsetting the carbon footprint is a primary component of all Viridian products. A carbon footprint represents the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused by a person, event, organization or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. And about everything people do in life contributes to the amount of carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere.
|Viridian Associates help during a beach clean-up in Mexico.|
Viridian purchases carbon offsets to neutralize emissions created by consumers’ energy usage as well as their travel through Travel Light. “A carbon offset is something somewhere in the world that’s either avoiding the release of carbon or it’s producing more oxygen,” explains Boehme. “Carbon offsets provide funding for projects that help our environment. A carbon offset is simply certification that one metric ton of CO2 has been intentionally reduced, absorbed or avoided as a result of a project, initiative or program designed to create that positive impact.” Thanks to Viridian’s carbon offset purchases, customers can make a big difference in the health of the planet. For example, an average Viridian electricity customer’s usage avoids enough CO2 to represent 109 trees grown over 10 years and 36,552 aluminum cans recycled.
The company also makes contributions on each purchaser’s behalf to its Simply Right Natural Gas Fund, which supports nonprofit organizations that are driving and creating positive change in the natural gas industry. Plus, it gives electricity to a needy family for one day every month that Viridian customers pay their energy bill, and offers a 5 percent cash back program for bundling electricity or natural gas plans.
Rates for energy usage varies depending on the plan and area in which customers live, says Boehme. To help customers review rates and plans in their area, they can go to rates.viridian.com. Associates also receive the company’s online newsletter, the Energy Insider, every month to receive up-to-date information about its energy products.
Putting a New Light on Growth Potential
Viridian’s solar product offers strong growth potential for the company. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the U. S. solar market had its biggest year ever in 2016, having installed 14,800 megawatts of solar power, nearly doubling the previous record of 7,500 megawatts in 2015 and bringing the total installed to 42.4 gigawatts. The organization predicts the cumulative U.S. solar market to nearly triple in size over the next five years, surpassing 10 gigawatts.
Viridian offers a variety of flexible plans for installing solar panels and offers 24/7 monitoring for the life of the solar contract, which includes any necessary repairs or replacements. In addition, its Sun Plus One program helps families in need by donating one solar system to a family in the U.S. or around the world for every 15 of its installed solar customers.
Boehme says the structure of the company’s solar program, which removes its complicated nature, is compelling. “It’s not the kind of product that as a network marketer you want to become an expert in,” she says. “And so we have [created] a very, very simple lead program.” She adds that Associates merely provide the names of people who are interested in solar to an internal team that then follows up with each prospect. “We pay $1,000 for every installed [solar] deal, and really all that our Associate is doing is creating that initial interest,” Boehme says.
|Viridian’s trip last year for its 7 Continents in 7 Years project took Associates to Albania to install electricity for school children.|
Viridian’s Travel Light program takes advantage of the booming travel industry, ($683.1 billion in direct spending for domestic and international travel in 2016, according to ustravel.org), while helping to offset the carbon footprint caused by travel.
With Travel Light, people can enroll as a member and receive as much as 50 percent in discounts on travel purchases, receive a 110 percent price guarantee and reward credits, have access to a personal concierge, and never have to worry about blackout dates. There is also a Karma program that does not require a monthly membership and offers smaller discounts.
When people use Travel Light to book flights, hotel rooms, vacation packages, rental cars or even cruises, Viridian purchases carbon offsets on their behalf to counterbalance the emissions those activities create. Viridian’s purchases of carbon offsets include forest restoration protection, landfill gas recovery systems, wind farms, energy efficiency for buildings and transportation, and education programs that seek to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
The company produces a sustainability report each year so its Associates can see exactly how much it has been able to accomplish. To date the company has offset more than 9 billion pounds of carbon by partnering with organizations and projects around the world. As an example, the 2016 carbon offsets purchased by Viridian for its customer usage plus its corporate travel and events came from two landfill gas projects: McKinney Landfill in Collin County, Texas, and Wolf Creek Landfill in Dry Branch, Georgia.
Making the World a Greener Place
Viridian is committed to making that carbon footprint as light as possible. Its 7 Continents in 7 Years (7C7Y) project, an annual initiative focused on a different continent each year, has improved people’s lives and the environment all over the world. 7C7Y projects generally focus on electrification or reforestation. The first year initiated Viridian’s Amazon Preservation Project, which represents the company’s commitment to plant 5,000 trees in deforested regions of the Amazon, and its Earth Mom program encourages people every month to “show the planet a little love.”
The 7C7Y incentive program encourages field leaders to help create a more sustainable world. Top leaders are rewarded with these hands-on trips; called “voluntourists,” they spend a week making a difference somewhere in the world before enjoying a week of fun and relaxation. They’ve trekked to such places as Ghana, India, Fiji, Brazil, Albania and Nicaragua to do things such as reforest a region, install solar panels, help to provide power for a school and provide much-needed clean water. This year’s seventh installment of the initiative will take them to New Mexico.
The company also has a program for nonprofit organizations called Viridian Cares and a program for commercial customers called the Business Beacons Program that allows businesses to take advantage of Viridian’s energy-efficient products.
Building to a Blitz
The company’s launch in Australia last October is also playing a role in Viridian’s growth. Robert McFadden, Vice President, Australia, helped during Viridian’s infancy, traveling the U.S. in a little black Toyota Prius to share the company and its product with people. He left after two years, and was recruited back into the company after a three-year hiatus. He says he couldn’t resist rejoining the company.
Australia boasts 4,000 Associates, and McFadden anticipates growing that number to 10,000 over the next two years. Adds Boehme, “We have a growing team there. They’re very passionate about sustainability and they really embrace our mission.”
With the company’s launch in Australia, and plans to roll out new products in the fall, Viridian is definitely charting a course for growth. Viridian currently ranks No. 59 on DSN’s Global 100 and had $263 million in net generated sales in 2016. Booth says he wants to increase the number of Associates to 1 million and plans to use a methodical approach to become a $1 billion business well within five years.
“We won’t hurry up and mess up,” he states. “However, I can tell you once we do jump into those [other] countries, we now have a compensation plan that can get us in there and we can just blitz very, very quickly.”
For Boehme, this growth will never change the mission and purpose of Viridian. To her the heart of the matter is quite simple: “We help people make more sustainable choices more affordably, and we help people build a business doing that.”