CSR Spotlight: Flick Electric
Power to you; New Zealand's transparent power industry
Jess Noone, twenty three year old brand coordinator for Flick Electric in Wellington.
“I would say I’m a people person – I think I’m energetic and excited – kind of a yes man. I say yes to everything all the time."
The power industry isn't normally the first place you start looking for a career of doing good. For Jess, her job with Flick is one of the first of its kind. It's reflective of an age where we back companies who are onto something bigger than just making money, an age where mission-driven millennials are wanting more to work on than just driving profit returns, and an age where running good businesses can really make for good business.
After spending five months in a village called Ndhiwa, in Kenya after high school, Jess returned to New Zealand knowing she wanted to use her career to have an impact somehow. Still, she had seen herself how polarising the NGO sector could be for a CV, and wanted to be a part of a mainstream business with a good culture from day one. It was once she arrived at Flick that she realised combining a love for design with a love of doing good could be possible - and all without compromising on her career goals.
Looking back, she finds her decision to choose design funny. Describing it with a small smile, she pointed out how "arrogant, pretentious and exclusive" the field can be, and found that more and more over her study, she was "completely disagreeing with it". The funny part to Jess now, is that she's using her design degree to do good in the power industry. Historically that combination just wouldn't have worked.
"It sounds crazy, right?" she laughs as we first start to talk.
And it does. The idea of a power company out on an authentic mission to do good still seems fishy. For most New Zealanders, the power bill is something to avoid looking at each month, and not an enjoyable service to engage with. We look at power companies with a sense of cynicism, waiting for traps and charges to get us while we're not looking. In comparison, a power company that's really striving to be as transparent, friendly, good, and honest as they can be, sounds too good to be true. Greenwashing. It almost has to be. Can a company genuinely be that transparent and still survive?
Well, yes - the short answer. But not without complete anarchy. Flick is the breath of fresh air in the power industry today (who are traditionally completely against transparent pricing), and for Flick, their shake up is the whole point. Their mission, values, customer service and - most revolutionary of all - their pricing model, is made to be transparent. It's not really been done before, which is why it's easy to be skeptical of Flick's clean and green message. We don't expect it. But it's because you see everything that it's much harder to argue that what Flick does is wool-pulling or part of an undercooked corporate positioning strategy. At every point, transparency is the company. What you see is what you get.
Every Flick customer knows who they’re dealing with, whether their power is clean or dirty, and how much (down to the margins) each unit of power they’re using is costing them at every point. Over the past two years, this ethos has earned Flick over 10,000 new households signing on, a number that is continuing to grow through the power of great customer service. Their reputation for being engaged with local communities is also attracting new customers everyday.
Their transparency is also key to sustainable energy use. If we can be more aware of what types of power we're using (whether it's clean or dirty), then we're more likely to make better decisions around when and for how long to use the power we have. We'll also save money in the process.
The 'it must be too good to be true' feeling you may have at this point, Jess blames on years and years of distrust in the industry. She gets it too – she remembers what it was like to first say out loud that she was working for a power company, but insists that it's this paradox that makes the company magic.
"We have so many preconceived ideas from years and years of distrust that people just don’t feel like they have a say in what they’re spending anymore. No one enjoys it. They pay for power because they have to. We’re out to change that feeling. It can – and should – be enjoyable.”
What Flick shows is that good business can make for a good business. Stepping inside their offices, you can feel that this is something more than just surface level. This is culture. It’s not a comms team simply saying 'oh let's do an ad and people will love us'. Their approach is practical; it’s backing charities like One Percent Collective, partnering with the NZ Comedy Festival, supporting the Te Puea Memorial Marae, walking the walk. It's in the little things they do too; the good, honest customer support, and the Flick Connects Events held regularly for community leaders and customers.
Mostly, it’s a sense that Flick is there to be your friend.
"We shouldn’t have to lock someone in to contracts to make them stay”
So if you're a design student wanting a career doing good, or really if you're anybody in this country who uses power, it is time to watch this space. Flick's proven their ethos works; you can show a customer everything and they won't leave you, and you can spend your marketing budget on ‘doing good’ and still be successful. In fact, Flick has the highest percentage of satisfied customers in the New Zealand power market.
“I don’t work for a charity, I work for a power company. We still do good, and I still get to use the skills I have to really make a difference. I honestly believe anyone can. The best thing is that it’s so so true to our brand – it’s just part of who we are."
There's no need to be all or nothing. It’s about being a business with a purpose at heart, and less about being a charity. The people who want to work for these types of companies are hungry for this fundamental ethos; and maybe what Flick’s proving now, is that in 2016, it’s not such a crazy expectation.
Just look at how twenty three year old Jess decided to start her career.
It was with a power company she chose because it was doing good.
See what else Flick's all about at flickelectric.co.nz
1. Develop a clear skill set - Jess knew that she wanted to be a part of something impactful, but also knew that she might not find all she wanted in her career working for a charity. She decided to go into design, combining her interest in English, media, marketing & design, and honed her skills through study.
2. Find a place where the culture was important - Initially, Jess volunteered as an intern to get her job with Flick. It's a competitive industry, but she knew she liked Flick's culture and what they were trying to achieve. Her passion for the company's mission helped her into her full time role with Flick's communications and marketing team.
3. Keep transparency central – Flick's whole ethos has been built around transparency; of their pricing, service and brand mission. They've been able to appeal to their audience and build trust by being consistent, which in turn, has made them more likeable over time. It also makes it less likely that this is all just greenwashing: when the whole company's onboard, there has to be more to it.
4. Be brave enough to take risks – Flick's made mistakes: "They’ve happened and people have laughed. But [they're also] 100% prepared to go against the status quo".
5. Enjoy your uniqueness – For Jess, this was the crux of why she loves working at Flick. In a traditionally faceless, corporatised industry, she loves proving that any company can be good at heart. Regardless of norms, history, or sector: good (honest) business is possible.
6. Transform the power industry – This is what Flick is trying to achieve most of all. Complete disruption of the power industry, so that everywhere you go, what you see is what you get.