Features: If I Knew Then: Nick Haines

Aphra Evans, July 12, 2017

Founded in Bristol but available to customers across the UK, Bristol Energy is a gas and electricity company with fair prices. Owned by Bristol City Council, it’s one of only two municipal energy supply companies in the country, and profits are reinvested back into local communities.

Nick joined Bristol Energy as its 10th permanent employee, following 12 years in the energy sector.

How did you start at Bristol Energy?

I joined in the early days. I thought a socially grounded energy company that reinvests back into its founding city sounded incredibly interesting. And I wasn’t wrong! The energy sector is dynamic and challenging; to combine that with a company that has a social ethos was perfect.

If you knew then what you know now, what mistakes might you have avoided?

I would have left my previous position earlier. I wasn’t happy there but I was very much in my comfort zone. Sometimes you just have to make a jump into the unknown, and it paid off.

What advice would you have given yourself when starting out?

Getting the right work/life balance is the key to success. I’m not as dynamic as I like to think I am, so I would tell myself to be more flexible and regularly communicate with the people that rely on me, and that I rely on.

If you knew then what you know now, would you still be sitting there?

Absolutely. It’s incredibly rewarding to see this business go from strength to strength on the back of the decisions we make. To have a constant ethos that runs through the whole business, rather than being window dressing or some sort of CSR whitewash, is liberating and positive.

What do you know now that you didn’t know then?

Recruit early. It’s better to wait for the right people to join your team, than bring in the wrong people quickly. For one of my team we had to wait over six months after two rounds of advertising, but they are already a huge asset.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far?

Not so much advice as support. Our managing director, Peter Haigh, fully supported me to improve my work/life balance. Peter had received similar support in the past and really valued it, so to him it was an obvious thing to do, but others in his position might not have considered it.

What is your business highlight?

The team that I have around me. Without their hard work and skill, the things we’re going to achieve would not be anything like as straightforward, enjoyable and rewarding as I know they will be.

What is your business low point?

There was a period last year when some smaller suppliers were offering extremely low and unsustainable prices. We didn’t want to play that game, because we put our customers before a quick win on profits. So, for a few months our growth suffered. But now we’re back on track.

What keeps you awake? (other than pets and children)

I’m guessing I have to exclude my dilapidated house from my answer too then! To be fair, nothing much keeps me awake these days. By the time I eventually make it to bed I’m exhausted.

What’s changed from when you started out?

Bristol Energy is a new supplier model, so when we started out, people wondered how it would work, and whether customers would support us. What’s changed is a growing level of respect from within the industry.

What’s still on your to-do list?

We are working really hard to bring more renewable energy into our fuel mix alongside our existing 100% renewable electricity tariff. We’re focusing on green energy and a variety of new products and services. I can’t see my to-do list being sparse any time soon!

What’s next for Bristol Energy?

Our main aim is growing the business. The local Bristol community has been hugely supportive, and we want to pay that back by reinvesting our profits back into our city.

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