UK Energy Partners CEO on disruptive innovation and the Everline Future 50
A Q+A with a previous Everline Future 50 Winner, Neil Gething, CEO of UK Energy Partners.
Hi Neil! Firstly, tell us a little bit about your business?
UK Energy Partners operates in the building sector and there are two distinct parts to our business. The first is helping clients and property owners to refurbish their properties and make them more energy efficient. The second is designing new build developments which consist of ultra-energy efficient buildings.
When did you start the business and why?
I founded the company with my business partners Neil Smith and Peter Johnston, having worked with them in the telecoms space previously.
In 2006, we decided that we wanted to move into the fertile sector of energy and construction and launch a disruptive business model that would really make a difference. We spent two years researching the market before starting out in 2010. From then, we devised our designs for radically energy efficient new buildings, of which the first was constructed in 2012.
Did you encounter any problems and if so, how did you overcome them?
We encountered lots of problems. Business development in this sector is difficult for a start-up, particularly as the property industry is so risk averse.
There are also traditional products and processes, making it difficult to persuade customers to break from those norms. This ultimately meant that we faced challenges making a customer base and revenue. For the same reason, we found it difficult to attract partners and investment initially. We were only able to develop the business because we could self fund our start up with the investment required. In the early stages this was crucial and we would not have succeeded without our own funding.
In light of those challenges, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Persistence and faith are the core of any start-up. This means both faith in yourself and your proposition. You also need to understand your market, the commercial relevance of your business, and have a clear definition of what makes you different, particularly if you want to bring about change in an industry. If you’ve got that, you’ll get there.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur?
Innovation and breaking the mould is what drives me and my partners. The satisfaction comes in developing new propositions that are disruptive and make a difference. Previously, we worked in an industry which was rather drab and dull and it was far less satisfying.
You’ve mentioned the term ‘disruptive business’ a few times. How do you define this?
In simple terms it is one that delivers a proposition in a manner and methodology that is different to the current norm. Buildings is a perfect example of that. Traditionally, developers would build bricks onsite. We build offsite, using modern technology and new materials.
I think nowadays, it’s about how you use contemporary technology and methodologies to change an industry, regardless of what field you are in. An excellent example of a disruptive business as its time was laterooms.com – a consumer-led proposition which was fit for its time.
How has your business changed since being a Future 50 winner in 2015?
It was extremely satisfying to be recognised alongside other companies who have been in a similar process and have had the same development that we have. I would recommend other businesses to enter in the future as it’s a great way to showcase how we are doing something different and that it can work.
It’s all about scale. We need to continue to make a difference and have ambitious growth plans. We’ve grown massively over the last five years and we want to fly our flag much higher, in partnership with our new investors, Cabot Square Capital. This investment deal was finalised at the end of 2015 and we look forward to working with Cabot to fast track the growth of our business.
Want to find out more about disruptive businesses in the UK? The Real Business Disrupts event is taking place in March. Find out more on their website.