As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan to Rebuild in the Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Brener.
As a green building, renewable energy and energy efficiency consultant, Marc Brener boasts over 35 years in the energy industry. In 2014, he created what is now the Renewable and Energy Efficiency consulting divisions for his employer, Energy Experts International (EEI).
These divisions are tasked with turning power operating costs into profit centers for those who own a variety of commercial businesses; including industrial, manufacturing, distribution and office buildings. Marc holds a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering from the Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology. He also holds Green Globes certification and is in the final stages of completing his LEED Green Associate certification.
Marc Brener is a recognized building services industry expert. His networking prowess has helped him discover, drive and develop new business opportunities. Marc has started new companies, created new departments within well-established companies, managed regional offices, developed key growth relationships within the marketplace and negotiated sales contracts to drive year-over-year growth. Highly analytical and organized, Marc is skillful at leading teams to optimize corporate goals. He analyzes his market intelligence to optimize his client’s positions in a highly volatile and competitive industry.
Marc’s current work focuses on renewable and energy efficiency project design, project management and staging, and generating energy cost savings via retrofit solutions. His typical ROI is under two years. Marc lives in Orange County, California with his wife and two daughters.
Thank you so much for your time Marc! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started out with a CET degree from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Canada and a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering with a major in both Reservoir and Production Engineering, from Montana School of Mines & Minerals in Butte, MT. Following my pursuit of my education, I began working in the oil and gas industry. I worked on both the upstream and downstream sides of the industry; from evaluating reserves, drilling wells, running production testing programs to marketing and trading of oil and gas across North America. Subsequent to my having moved down to California for Love, I created and ran my own natural gas brokerage for 12 years.
In late 2007, a series of circumstances caused my career path to change. By this time, my wife and I had 2 beautiful young daughters and the natural gas market was in the middle of a shift. The financial and physical natural gas markets were losing steam both financially from reduced forward market contract spreads as well as from traders who were less motivated to speculate. I felt that the time was ripe to make a change and jumped on the Sustainable Energy/Energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy wave. My goal was not only a new career but one which would offer me ways to give back to the Earth. My kids were of an age where they were just beginning to understand what I did for a living and naturally, I wanted them to be proud of me. Giving back to the Earth seemed to make a lot of sense and so, a mid-life career change happened. I learned everything I could about renewable and energy efficiency and so began my journey.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I am unsure what would be considered funny as far as stories go, but I learned a valuable lesson many years ago. In my desire to succeed and learn, I put myself “out there” for any kind of consulting position. And there were a few like solar sales guy or business development for a biogas deal. The problem was there was a bunch of time, effort and work involved and sometimes for little if any dollars. The lesson: don’t give your work away for free. Your time is valuable — ensure that those with whom you work know you are valuable.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I read and have read many books. From 2007 to 2013, two books stand out for me as they gave insight into the human condition but also forced me to be introspective and explore what is important to me, what perception means and how to protect oneself from those tumultuous events in one’s life. “Fooled by Randomness” and “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder,” both by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you were given the Green Light to start a new division for your employer, Energy Experts International, what was your vision, your purpose?
My vision was quite simple because it was founded in real life examples. As a solar contractor salesperson, we were tasked with selling solar arrays to homeowners. The problem was that the typical homeowner only knew that the system would reduce the present bill basically to nothing. The problem is that the homeowner never understood the kinds of questions to ask. Which meant, that other energy reducing solutions were probably readily available which would reduce the electricity bill. My idea for commercial energy efficiency consulting was born. Offer clients ways to reduce their power bill by “tweaking” things or improving systems within the building first. Then and only then, if a client still wants solar, the size and cost of the array will both have been reduced.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Like most professionals, we hold our clients’ best interest as our primary motivator at all times. Service and quality are the cornerstones. After that, implementing a uniquely-designed plan for each building happens. This is because, no two buildings so I wouldn’t offer one-size-fits-all recommendations. I love the creativity my work requires for improving my clients’ experiences — it also keeps my job interesting. Every day provides a new challenge, mental invigoration and money saving opportunities for clients making their facility more energy efficient.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
IN January, 2019 I was diagnosed with Melanoma, Skin Cancer. Ever since that time, I received Immunotherapy infusions every 3 weeks. That was until March of 2020 when I had to stop because of serious side-effects I was experiencing as a result of the infusions. I continue to fight the fight and am receiving very positive news from my doctors as new body scans are performed every 3 months. This has been the biggest challenge for me as well as for my wife and daughters.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The pandemic has caused some businesses to either close or allow employees to work from home. With some factories and warehouses remaining shuttered, or partially closed, the demand for my services waned simply because building owners, developers and property management companies didn’t know how many people would re-occupy or when people would re-occupy. It was difficult having my conversation on energy savings when more pressing issues were of concern. So, we pivoted and found a way to provide energy efficiency for Air handling units and Air Conditioning systems at the same time as ensuring that the airstream in a building was bacteria-free and Coronavirus-Free. The means for a business or building and those people who work or live in that building to enjoy peace of mind because they were breathing bacteria-free air, seemed like a good idea.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I am a family man, and have always preferred spending my free time with my wife and daughters. Before the virus hit, some of my favorite things to do were traveling, hotel room service and dining out. This pandemic has restricted everyone’s ability to do a lot of those things I am so grateful for my family and that we have each other.
I have tried to focus on the things that I can do rather than the things I can’t. I have taken advantage of this time together with my wife and daughters, and have tried to be there to support them as they support me. It is a difficult time, but when you look to the people around you for support and compassion, the load gets a little lighter. Sharing in activities has and will continue to be a strong bonding event.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
As mentioned earlier, one of the things we have been working since the pandemic started, is implementing Ultraviolet-C band lighting for commercial properties. The UVC emitters drastically improve air quality by purifying it from all mold, fungus, bacteria and a number of Coronaviruses. This hardware is as simple as having a special light tube installed between the coils of an air handler. The end-result is improved air quality in places like office buildings, schools, restaurants, cannabis dispensaries, medical buildings, factories, hotels and more. Natural sources of UVC, (rays that destroy DNA and RNA), are blocked by the ozone layer. The product which we work with has been used in HVAC systems since 1994 to treat AC coils. It has a 99% effective rate, and will destroy and remove all build-up of mold and bacteria — including Coronavirus.
While we have known for some time that coronavirus can spread through the air, on August 3rd, 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, spoke with the Journal of the American Medical Association about the possibility that the airborne nature of the virus is in fact much more serious than six feet of social distancing can handle.
Dr. Fauci stated that there is likely some degree of aerosolization, and while further testing will be needed to verify this, it really highlights the importance of air filtration systems. The system we employ is specifically designed to eliminate droplets less than five micrometers in size — droplets that can ‘aerosolize.’ UVC lighting is uniquely able to cleanse the air of those droplets because of its ability to destroy all DNA and RNA in sight.
As this pandemic has shown us, we can do our part to keep ourselves healthy and safe by properly washing our hands and wear our face masks. Having the peace of mind, for all who enter a building, that the air they will breathe is clean, is a great marketing story for both Owner and Tenant. The UYV-C system we recommend will be enticing to businesses that want to do everything they can to secure their employee’s health. With the containment of coronavirus unclear, I expect to see growth in this sector of my business.
Another post-Covid economic opportunity that I anticipate is commercial building owners and restaurants, colleges, hotels and car dealerships looking to Energy Experts International for help with tax credit opportunities by employing green energy services. With businesses hurting after the massive shut-down, I expect people to be looking to take advantage of every relief service being offered. Utilizing certain types of green energy can open eligibility for tax credits, and I have been helping businesses make the most of this eligibility for years.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think the pandemic will make people think more deeply about how they are taking care of themselves. I believe they will seek ways to stay cleaner and healthier; which is why I expect an influx of corporations to invest in UVC lighting systems.
I also expect more of us to be grateful for what we have. People have shifted their attitudes. For the most part, I continue to witness a kinder, more patient response from people. When I shifted my career track a few years ago, it was because I wanted to show my daughters my commitment to make our planet a better place. I believe that this pandemic, which has forced so many of us to take stock of the things we value in life — and the things we don’t — to consider and appreciate our planet.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
I plan to spread the word about UVC lighting and its health benefits. This conversation will hopefully allow us to have the bigger conversation regarding energy efficiency and renewable energy. Of course, we will continue to work with and help businesses save money, thereby improving the bottom line cash flow. We will continue to provide hands-on customer service which in turn means good results which then, hopefully, produces happy customers who will refer us to others.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I would encourage others to ensure that they are taking advantage of all the opportunities they can find to improve their fiscal planning and business models. Taking advantage of energy rebates as well as energy tax credits incentivizes clients to embrace applications which will lower operating costs but will also provide greater options for the business or building owner. I hope more business and building owners will look into our services and realize the economic potential their energy bills offer.
I also encourage other businesses to look out for each other. This virus has not been easy on any of us, and it is important to remember that supporting our favorite local businesses is a great way to support our entire local economy.
Can you please give us your favorite ”Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Best Quote: Keep your wits about you! It is self-evident but when others panic or one finds themselves in a tough situation, take a breath and relax.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can follow up with me and the work that I am doing by checking out the fantastic resources provided by Amy Levy PR, Inc. She has a newsletter that details some of my work with UVC lighting, and can be addressed for any more questions. You can also keep up with me on LinkedIn.