We talked to Brad Dockser of GreenGen on how to use energy to drive both a financial return and a sustainability return and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Brad Dockser: We consider ourselves very fortunate, as our family’s home has surrounding land. My business partner and wife (who is a quality chef) enjoy cooking with locally grown produce from farmers who we connect to in our area. Our kids are in or out of college. Unlike some parents, we’ve thankfully not had to navigate the challenges of virtual learning. I completely recognize that how we’ve experienced the pandemic in a house with plenty of space is very different from a family with young kids in an apartment. We realize how fortunate, both personally and professionally, we’ve been.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded GreenGen.
Brad Dockser: Before co-founding GreenGen, I worked in real estate private equity for more than two decades. I began my career with JMB Realty, which was then the largest real estate firm in the U.S. After business school, I was the Founding Managing Partner of Starwood Capitals International businesses in Asia and Europe. Overseeing operations, direct investments, and operating joint ventures and financing activities. Later, I was a Principal with national real estate investment firm MacFarlane Partners, overseeing its East Coast business activities.
As real estate private equity investors, my wife Debbie (President of GreenGen) and I saw an opportunity to drive asset value through energy savings. We realized a massive opportunity, a “white box” that nobody was executing against, if you will. Simply put, we founded GreenGen because we could not find the firm we needed. We created the firm investors to monetize energy and sustainability through our positioning at the intersection of life, real estate, capital markets, and technology.
How does GreenGen innovate?
Brad Dockser: Our ‘Operate in the Green’ approach improves our clients’ double bottom line by driving both positive financial outcomes (money green) and environmental benefits (environmental green). It is not a zero-sum game – instead, they are synergistic. The people who think about sustainability and the environment as a critical part of their business plan receive rewards, cash flow, and access to capital markets increase when business strategies focus on sustainability.
As more people head back into the office and other public spaces nationwide, the health and safety of returning to shared indoor spaces are top-of-mind for many. COVID-19 means that people now expect “healthy” buildings. In response to this need, GreenGen introduced our Fundamentals of Trust approach this past summer to help building owners and operators regain stakeholder confidence.
GreenGen has diverse service offerings meeting a host of market needs. It includes our Buildings group, which optimizes and modernizes facilities worldwide using proven and disruptive technologies. The Ventures team has investment, operations, and technology experience and expertise across a broad range of real estate asset types, including office, retail, hospitality, industrial, and healthcare, to help identify and grow early-stage companies. Stay tuned for our coming carbon offset arm!
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Brad Dockser: GreenGen has been fortunate in that we continue to see growth despite the challenging economic circumstances. Sustainability is becoming the top priority for most companies as they realize it’s a long-term play – ESG is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have.
Most companies findCovid-19 particularly challenging due to the new level of uncertainty it has introduced. However, the changes caused by Covid-19 reduces tension for our company because they place us in the mainstream conversation around the global policy as it relates to the environment.
We have not changed our direction and continue to align ourselves with governments and companies worldwide to make voluntary commitments to promote sustainability. As a firm, we have a depth of knowledge and experience with ESG and capital markets. While that is not unique, what is noteworthy is that we come directly from the investments and capital world, so our ability to understand how value creates is very much in demand. Our ability to understand the environment’s business is an essential set of expertise and skills that serve us well.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Brad Dockser: The pandemic and its effects have certainly not been easy for anyone, but we made the conscious choice early on in the crisis to invest in our people. We did not make any layoffs, and instead, we encouraged our employees to take advantage of the funding we provide for certifications and additional education and training. We wanted people to have to ability to acquire more expertise when things were slower.
We have also been making strategic hires, including a new Director, Healthy Buildings, and two engineers in Europe. We are currently looking to hire in Japan. Rather than taking money out, we invest in the business to position ourselves on a go-forward basis.
In the early stages of building GreenGen, we chose to step out of the investment world (a lucrative one) and become a service provider. Being a provider in a high-demand sector has made us work harder, and our business now has never been busier, nor have I ever been more optimistic. There is a sustainability ‘arms race happening right now between governments globally, from Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan to the larger net zero conversation in countries like France, Canada, China, and Japan. It is a fantastic time to be doing what GreenGen is doing.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and GreenGen in the future?
Brad Dockser: Stress and anxiety are part of being an entrepreneur. I use the Headspace app regularly for 15-minute guided meditations. I also work out for an hour or so every morning while watching “Morning Joe” on MSNBC.
Another aspect that helped me is coming back into the office, even though most of the team works from home. Boundaries between work and home are essential, but they were often blurred when working from home full-time. Now, in the evening, I am genuinely home with my family, even if that means working longer hours in the office. Maintaining some semblance of work-life balance has been crucial to managing stress and anxiety.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Brad Dockser: I don’t think many companies out there genuinely do what we at GreenGen do. Yes, many companies out there can tell you how to make your buildings more efficient. The difference with GreenGen is that we can give companies a strategy and then successfully execute against that strategy – We’re genuinely end-to-end in that way. Debbie and I came from the real estate and private equity world before we started GreenGen, so we inherently understand our clients and their motivations.
How do we plan on staying in the game? We are going to continue doing what we have been doing. Fortunately, the game is coming to us. A growing number of companies are investing in their businesses for both monetary and environmental gains. Here at GreenGen, we have the skillset to execute, harness, and articulate those returns on investment.
Your final thoughts?
Brad Dockser: We are very focused on helping our clients achieve the positive outcomes they desire, including growing their business value while also helping the environment and moving to a net-zero economy. Because the pandemic is restricting travel, we are doing virtual audits, which invites more people into the conversation (with the need to travel being eliminated).
We’ve ramped up our ability to offer clients proper 24/7 project support due to our teams collaborating across different continents and working virtually together. It is just one way we have pivoted amidst the mass digital transformation unfolding before us. COVID-19 continues to make us think about what we do and how we do it. Because we run a global team, we can deliver client services faster and are continually engaging with our clients.
GreenGen’s specific industry knowledge and expertise are in high demand – People increasingly want to know how to incorporate sustainability into their profit models. As we move forward as a company, I believe we’re helping create a world where sustainability best practices are integrating into every facet of society.
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