Getting to know you: Doug Stewart

Doug Stewart

What do you currently do?

I’m CEO of Green Energy (UK) plc. I run what I think is an ethical and friendly green energy company that makes a difference. I’m a game keeper turned poacher! I spent most of the first twenty years of my career polluting the planet in the motor industry and I’m spending the next twenty trying to clean it up! We have customers and small scale generators who have an environmental agenda rather than the one the media try to portray about the energy sector, and we provide free shares in our company to our customers, as we believe the customer is king and it makes us transparent.

What is your inspiration in business?

The customer, and doing things right!

Having sold my motor business, I found myself in the fortunate position of being able to choose and decide what to do next. The blueprint was an ethically sound business that made a contribution through commerce. I formed Green Energy (UK) plc, with the intention, of offering a product that rewarded consumers who took active steps to do something about the wider environmental issues we face.

Who do you admire?

My wife, for supporting me through thick and thin, and bringing up 3 wonderful children.

Sir Peter Thompson, our chairman and creator of employee share ownership at the National Freight Corporation, which we extended into customer share ownership with Green Energy UK plc

Dr Stephen Covey, for his 7 habits of highly effective people

And my dad for kicking me up the backside when I wanted to drop out!

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

Yes and no. I think our share scheme is way too complicated by Government red tape and if I’d known then what I know now, I may not have done it. But I don’t regret anything. ‘You pays your money and takes your chance’. I like to think that when I make a decision it’s the right one. If things don’t turn out the way I hoped, I still feel I made the right decision with the information available. Otherwise you go through life thinking ‘if only’ and that is no way to live a life!!

One thing I’ve learned is never to say ‘what could possibly go wrong’. By not fully analysing a situation, not sticking to our strategy and using that mantra, I nearly lost everything. But I have survived and the business has thrived to tell this story!

What defines your way of doing business?

Honesty and ethics – I sleep well in my bed knowing I’ve made an honest shilling. Treating people poorly, or treading on people is no way to climb any ladder never mind the corporate one, and every dog has his day. I was once told never to get mad just get even; and that’s precisely how I’ve run my life although some of my staff will testify that I can get mad – but it’s usually at the regulator or some element of interfering government policy that has unintended consequences!

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Always listen to the advice you are given, but remember that you don’t have to actually take it. People are happy to offer advice if they think you are listening but they will stop if they think you are not.

Just do what you are going to do, on time and at the price you say you are going to do it, and you will probably exceed every customer’s expectation because most of the time customers are used to people promising one thing and delivering another.

And if you make a mistake, own up, say sorry and offer a solution. I have usually found this rarely costs me anything and I tend to win customers and a lot of loyalty from them.

But don’t expect to achieve what you set out to in a moment. Most businesses fail and the good ones take a lot longer to grow than they anticipate. Sure if you have deep pockets or rich investors you can grow quickly, but beware cash flow and process! Cash runs out fast and you can only do that once; when it’s gone, you’re bust! And process is key to any business. If the critical path of processing your orders or customers is too narrow you’ll fail, or lose goodwill with the very people you need, your customers! Undoing all the good work you achieved to get them in the first place is a frustrating waste of energy and resource.