Last week I visited beautiful Burlington, Vermont to attend the DOE’s Better Buildings conference – The Business of Energy Efficiency. Fall foliage was at peak color, signaling the change of seasons. Likewise, the conference itself was a signal of change.
The entire meeting focused on shifting from a $500 million+ grant program to create energy efficiency programs, to a business incubator to launch these grant-funded initiatives into viable stand-alone businesses in their markets. The 40+ grantees were heads down thinking about business models, revenue streams and business viability. All a great sign that the Better Buildings program is being managed as it was intended: as a lab to create 40 different flavors of energy efficiency programs, with the goal of turning the winners into viable businesses.
Using lots of old-fashioned and fun, gadgety feedback methods, the conference team captured where the grantee programs are today, where they need to go tomorrow, and started to carve out resources to make the transition. The most interesting feedback to me is that real estate is currently a lower-priority partner. But looking ahead a few months, the real estate community rockets to first place, with over 40% of grantees wanting to forge real estate partnerships. I had the chance to work one-on-one with several programs that are already committed on getting things right and working on a plan to move ahead together.
Promising, but daunting. After all, real estate is local. So where do you start when there are over 40 different grant programs and 1,000’s of individual, distinct and diverse real estate markets around the country? How do you get real estate agents, lenders, appraisers and underwriters involved 18 months into design and launch when programs are already well on their way?
I’ll have specific thoughts in upcoming posts. But my initial advice to grantees is to understand more than your mission and vision, and revenue streams. You also need to think and describe clearly your core competency. When the grant funding is gone, what is the contribution you will make in your market? What is it you will do better than anyone else?
If you can’t describe the answer to that question, simply put, real estate will not be able to partner with you.
So think about your core competency. Is it generating leads? Achieving 15% and higher performance savings? Financing energy upgrades? Something else? Know it, build an infrastructure for it, and sell it.
For the programs that can define that, real estate will be a strong partner.
Some Core Competency examples:
- Lead Generation – Your brand will be your most important asset. Make sure that the real estate community understands that brand, so that the community is including that brand on listing sheets, and leveraging contractor upgrades during the pre-listing/staging phase.
- Achieving Performance Savings – This is about brand too, but a certificate of savings achieved becomes your greatest asset. Whatever the tchotchke has to be, get it out there. A sticker, a plaque and in all cases some sort of paper that says what was done, by whom and the QA steps included. If you don’t think it’s a big deal when you walk out on wrap-up day I can guarantee my client is not going to tell me about it when they resell that home, and they’re certainly not going to mention it when the appraiser comes through. Your local MLS will be more likely to commit to a searchable field for your upgrades if you backup the results with a verified certificate. Your value and follow-on demand is linked to whatever device you use to tell the market, “We were here, we did the job and we’ve got the results recorded so you can brag about it!”
- Financing Energy Upgrades – Your loan products will be the key asset, and it’s critical that real estate agents and lenders know what they are and how they fill a gap from other loan products in the market. It’s also important for partners to understand different options from buying to refinancing to renovating to fixing a major repair.