Lessons Learned From Serial Energy Entrepreneur Deirdre Lord

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By Christina Vuleta (Founder, 40:20 Vision) I had the pleasure of interviewing Deirdre Lord of The Megawatt Hour, a subscription information service that helps businesses procure and manage power by making the process simple, and transparent. This is her third venture in the retail electricity business.

Deirdre emanates a quiet energy and strength that surely helped fuel her longevity in energy entrepreneurship as much as it reflects a passion for innovation. Her career spans a diverse set of experiences from helping develop the private sector energy business in Chile and India to working for Citizen’s Energy, a non-profit dedicated to making energy more affordable and accessible to helping take startup, New Energy Ventures, through it’s purchase by retail energy giant, Constellation.

It was during this process that she learned entrepreneur-ism was in her blood. She left to start her own company with two other partners in 2006. Juice Energy, was generating $100M in revenue by year two and growing when they became a victim of the 2008 financial crisis and saw their collateral provider go bust.

After a little downtime, Deirdre re-upped with The Megawatt Hour in 2010 as CEO and co-founder.

She shares lessons learned that she is applying the third time around:

  1. A good culture can get you through hard times. I had to fire people at my last startup when the financial world imploded in 2008, taking our investors with it. People stood by us despite the ultimate shut down of the company. It was horrible and traumatic, but it really impressed on me the sustainability of goodwill and the importance of having a respectful, transparent workplace.My mission now is to create a company that can integrate an exceptional business and a better lifestyle. The message I got when I was younger was that balance and business did not meet, especially for women. I think there’s still a sense in the startup environment that you have to be there working 12 hours a day.

    The key for me is transparency. If I go home for a parents meeting during the day, people know that I’m also working after my son is in bed. If it’s a perfect day for kayaking in the New York Harbor and someone can take advantage of that and still be responsible for their output that day. Great.

    The key is making sure that people know what other people are doing and can see the output. People shouldn’t feel it’s a privilege to have flexibility. It’s about conveying a work ethic and making sure people know they don’t have to check their personality and lives at the door.

  2. Be patient about capital requirements. Wait to go on a funding round. A lot of people forget that fundraising is not the goal. Building a great business is the goal. Getting your first round of funding is not the goal. It’s a good vote of confidence but it is not the end game and it takes up so much time. Focus on bootstrapping and organic growth and the investors will come.
  3. Take time choosing your investors. You are joined at the hip with investors so you have to be really thoughtful about who you bring in. Make sure their skills and talents are well suited with your needs company culture and personality, and really understand what you're trying to do.Thank you Deirdre for your advice and for leading by example. What a great role model for creating a workplace that fosters growth of the company and the growth of female entrepreneurship by making flex time not about parenting time.

    We spend so much time talking about work life fluidity…that we can access work at any time whether at home, on the train or at play. We often place less emphasis on being able to connect to our lives at work and creating an environment that allows for that.

    About the guest blogger: Christina Vuleta is a strategic consultant and creator of 40:20 Vision, a blog that provides advice from 40-something women to 20-something women. Most recently a director at The Futures Company, a strategic marketing and trend consultancy, Christina has made a career out of understanding insights that drive women’s aspirations and life decisions.