Over the past four years, Indigo Swan has doubled turnover and continued to add steadily to its impressive collection of awards.
Recognised last year as the ‘Most Trusted UK Energy Consultancy (SME)’ at The Energy Live Consultancy Awards and as one of the UK’s top three employers at the Employee Experience Awards, this Norwich-based company has also continued to grow in the eye of the pandemic.
A new start-up in 2009, a family affair comprising founder Emily Groves and her cousins James Groves and Sarah Groves, amongst others, today the company has 20 employees and an annual turnover of over £1m.
Managing director, James explains the secret of its success with ease and succinctness. “It’s all down to honesty,” he said. “It’s about explaining everything in simple terms to clients, being transparent about how much it is going to cost them and setting realistic expectations.”
Being an open book was all the more important in an industry that was largely unregulated, he added. Integrity and the subsequent trust earned were essential to thrive in this most competitive of environments.
“Before Emily started Indigo Swan in 2009, she worked for a company on the technology side of the energy sector and it wasn’t for her.
“She did believe however, that there was a better way to help clients manage their energy contracts – by achieving a better price for them and improving on the service they received – and that was the inspiration for starting this company.”
Emily takes something of a back seat nowadays, having returned to education and a psychology degree course at the University of East Anglia.
Indigo Swan is still very much a family affair though, with James at the helm. “I think my success as MD is measured in how much time Emily has been able to take out to do the other things she’s wanted to do,” James laughs.
A people person to his core, his success can also be measured by the calibre of the team he has built.
“We call them, affectionately, The Swans,” he said, “and much of the success is down to them.
“They are great team – they are all very different and we really do celebrate their individuality. Every one of them brings different strengths and perspectives to Indigo Swan.”
The company invested heavily in both personal and professional development and it reaped the rewards. “I take a lot of pride looking after the team from a wellbeing point of view,” he said.
“Our first value as a company is happiness. We want everyone to be happy and to enjoy what they do and then do the best possible job they can as a result.”
The knock-on effect was a 90% client retention rate every year for the past decade, an achievement James ascribes to another percentage-cum-equation. “25% of what we do is about going out to get a good price for the client and 75% is the great after-care service we provide,” he said.
“I think we have a wonderful personality as a team – I think we have a likeability factor which has really allowed us to grow – but we also have a very fine focus on our existing clients.
“A lot of companies forget that, in their determination to keep winning new contracts, whereas our primary strategy is ‘let’s make sure we really look after our existing customers first’. That is what’s important to us.”
Currently, Indigo Swan has around 550 clients with somewhere in the region of 10,000 individual energy supplies to be managed.
Its clients are largely in the property management, education and manufacturing sectors and generally possess multiple-property portfolios, although, as James stresses, they never turn anybody away.
“We do what we can to help, regardless,” he said. “We’ve worked with a lot of tourism and hospitality sector businesses these past six months – life has just been so difficult for them, we’ve wanted to offer our support.
“Sometimes that has meant negotiating a wider spread of payments so they’ve had, say, three months to pay a bill instead of a month.”
One area the company is keen to expand into is energy management more specifically tailored to manufacturing clients. Several members of staff are now undergoing training courses to that end.
As this year and the shift to home working has demonstrated, The Swans are nothing if not adaptable.
“We had never worked remotely before this, but they have adapted remarkably well,” said James. “We have been able to maintain both our engagement with each other across the team, and a high level of engagement with our clients too.
“Every year we go into the new year saying ‘right, this is going to be our best one yet’.
“Some years we have great growth and some a smaller level, but for me, so long as we have this happy, positive, truly engaged team and some growth, I know we’re going in the right direction.”