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As one community-based human services organization in Texas discovered, energy buying isn't just about getting the best deal. It's also about finding a trustworthy supplier that offers customized solutions for unique business needs.


Managing Energy Costs on a Shrinking Budget

Tejas Management Systems (TMS) of Corpus Christi has been providing services to people with intellectual disabilities since 1985. It helps those living in institutional care facilities move into small group, foster and independent living homes. The organization currently serves over 100 individuals with disabilities in six southern and central Texas counties.

Every two years, the Texas legislature determines the TMS budget and allocates their Medicaid funding. The operating budget has been narrow since the legislature cut it significantly in 2008, and Chief Operating Officer Susan Taft must appropriate the state funds wisely.

"Controlling costs in our day programs and our 19 group homes is critical to our mission of providing quality services in a cost-effective manner," says Taft. "TMS has to provide the individuals with disabilities we serve with safe, clean, attractive, comfortable and secure residences. We provide and pay for all food and housing items, furnishings, staff, insurance, transportation, maintenance and rent—all within the per diem figure per resident."

How does paying for energy factor in with all these necessities? "Energy is a big expense, there's no doubt about it," says Taft. "Keeping energy rates predictable and manageable is crucial to managing our budget."

For the last 10 years, TMS has relied on Direct Energy Business for electricity services at a price that doesn't break the budget.

"Keeping energy rates stable year after year is important when we're dealing with limited dollars and the high needs our clients require," says Taft. "Direct Energy Business's sales reps are sensitive to our budget issues and always search for the best rate. They're really awesome. They're aware of our needs and never try to oversell me."

Taft's satisfaction with energy rates and their long-term stability are not the only reasons she prefers her master contract. Thanks to the easy-to-read line items on Direct Energy Business bills, Taft has visibility into energy consumption.

"We're able to track energy usage in every single group home, every single office and every single program. I can immediately see when there's a spike in energy use by looking at the Direct Energy Business bill. If the bill goes up, we know that an air conditioning system is set too low, needs servicing or that there's something else wrong."

It's this kind of insight that helps Taft manage energy costs by addressing behavior or repairs that could be wasting electricity.


The Value of Superior Service

As Taft knows well, finding a trustworthy energy supplier can be difficult for any business.

"Over the years since deregulation, we've been bombarded by salespeople from Direct Energy Business competitors. Money is always an issue, so at one point, I tried another company that promised great service at a low rate."

Taft stayed with that company for a few years, but ultimately wasn't satisfied with their service. She switched back to Direct Energy Business electricity and signed her master contract, which continues today.

"Now I tell energy competitors that I have a long-term master contract with Direct Energy Business, and that their service is superior and we have no intention of switching," says Taft. "I usually say, 'Good luck, but we're staying where we are.' And I hope the organization continues that way for our next 31 years."

Taft's dissatisfaction with the low cost energy provider reveals something valuable about what's important for small businesses: price isn't everything. For Taft, superior service is as important as getting the right energy rate because it makes her job easier.

"I love Direct Energy Business's service and my relationship with the helpful and knowledgeable sales representatives. They're sensitive to the nature of our business and know that a secure energy source is critical to operating our group homes and day programs. Sometimes juggling our multiple accounts can get a little confusing, but everything is always resolved promptly."

Even when there are power outages caused by bad weather or malfunctions, Taft's contacts at Direct Energy Business often serve as her first line of defense, keeping her up-to-date on the local utility company's repair status and ETA.

With experiences like these, Taft regularly recommends Direct Energy Business to landlords and other business owners in her area.

"I tell them, 'You really should contact Direct Energy Business and see if they can give you a better rate. They've done a wonderful job for our company.' Direct Energy Business has served TMS well for many years and we have no reason to change."


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