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Bubba Levy - Choice Energy Services

Bubba Levy

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He grew up on a South Texas ranch, so he knew the value of hard work. Today he’s president of Choice Energy Services, a broker/consultant of electricity to commercial-industrial clients. The deregulation of energy brought with it additional and more complicated choices. Choice considers options and negotiates price with energy providers. Russ interviews Bubba Levy, president of Choice Energy Services.

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Russ: This is the BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at thebusinessmakers.com. It's guest time on the show, and today we have a very experienced businessperson with a broad spectrum of experience, and today, he's president of choice energy services, Mr. Bubba Levy. Bubba, welcome to the BusinessMakers Show.

Bubba: Thanks, Russ. Thank you for inviting me. It's good to be here.

Russ: You bet. Well, let's start by you telling us about Choice Energy Services.

Bubba: Choice Energy Services is a broker/consultant of electricity to commercial industrial accounts. We have about 10,000 accounts, primarily in greater Houston, New York, but in all deregulated states.

Russ: Okay. Now a lot of us are experienced of deregulations for residential electricity. I assume this is very similar, except more complicated?

Bubba: The purchase of it, depending on the type of business that you have, is more complicated.

Russ: Okay. And that's why there's room for -

Bubba: That's where broker/consultant comes into play.

Russ: Okay. Well, tell us about some of the complexity. What can you do for a commercial buyer of electricity that's sorta different than what we buy from our homes?

Bubba: We go out in the market with retail energy providers. We don't do business with many. We vet them out as to their solvency, their contract, and certainly their pricing, and we come back with suggestions for the buyer of electricity, the commercial customer. That's basically what we do. But depending on the kind of industry they're in, whether the terms of the contract or when they buy or how long they buy, it's significant. And we bring those options and come with a sound recommendation.

Russ: Okay. And does volume play a role, too, how much -

Bubba: Absolutely. Volume plays a role.

Russ: All right. So I would assume there could be some very large volumes that, perhaps, could put a buyer in a strong position, or you the consultancy in a strong position to negotiate a lower price. Is that right?

Bubba: Yes, that's correct.

Russ: Okay. So that's real interesting. So are there businesses and commercial establishments that don't even know that there are services like yours?

Bubba: No. I think there are enough of us around. There are others like us. I think we're the best in the market on a level playing field. But most businesses now know about consultants/brokers.

Russ: Okay. Does the business actually pay you, though, for the service?

Bubba: No. We're paid by the retail energy provider.

Russ: Oh, wow. So from a business perspective, it's like free.

Bubba: Right.

Russ: That's hard to beat. Describe a big transaction that you've been involved in, a successful consultancy that led to a large acquisition of power.

Bubba: The largest one we've done has been the City of Houston, and that was done earlier this year. We were hired by the city in a consultant-off. There were a number of consultants who applied. That process took about four months to be hired, and then it took about six months for us to analyze the city's business, break it down into various categories and really start going out into the market and looking at basically the best time to buy, the type of product to buy, and then to put it to bed.

Russ: Okay. So did the city feel good about this after you put it to bed?

Bubba: Mayor Parker came out with a proclamation in May commending us, basically, for saving the city $150 million on a five-year purchase. This was the largest contract ever done in the state of Texas.

Russ: Wow. That's impressive, really impressive. Okay. So I understand the big ones, but I also understand you do lots of industrial customers as well, right?

Bubba: Yes. We have a big presence in East Harris County, Deer Park, Pasadena, et cetera, with manufacturing companies. We have a big presence in Houston with property management. Almost any realm of business, whether it's restaurants, manufacturing, commercial buildings, we're involved in it one way or the other.

Russ: Okay. Restaurants, that's interesting. So you might even be of service and like handling a small business as well?

Bubba: Yes, yes.

Russ: Okay. How small?

Bubba: 42 taco shops. We just completed a major deal for Goode Company BBQ, for all of their restaurants. And one of the interesting things there was they make and sell 50,000 pecan pies a year. They didn't know that baking operation qualified as a manufacturing operation. We got them back a certain amount of money back from the state on taxes that they had paid for this.

Russ: Wow, really cool. So if we have somebody in our audience interested in knowing about Choice Energy Services, how would they find you guys?

Bubba: Go online. Look at our website, Choice Energy Services. Give us a call, 713-358-5426. We're out there. Just get in touch with us.

Russ: All right, cool. All right. Now you heard the introduction, too. I said you have a very diverse background, quite a few years in the business world. Give us a quick overview of Bubba Levy's business background.

Bubba: Well, kind of an entrepreneurial growing up on a ranch in a small town in South Texas, and my father was a rancher and we owned a general store in a small community. But I was brought up working and taught me how earn a living on my own. We moved to Houston when I was ten. He was asthmatic, sold the ranch, went into the government surplus business with a cousin. From there, I pretty good student athlete. Certain to go to Rice, but I wanted to get outta town and go to college. So long story short, a mentor of my dad's got me to look at Dartmouth, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania. Because of him, I went to Dartmouth. Was in the military as an officer for three years after that. Came back to Houston, and went to work for a small corrugated box company.

Russ: Corrugated box company.

Bubba: Yes, Houston Corrugated Box. I bought a third interest in it in a year. Bought it all in five years. Now I'm gonna fast forward. 30 years later, we had a large company, five corrugated box plants around Texas, a distribution operation in the Midwest, and sold the business the summer of 2000 to Victor Packaging.

Russ: Wow. Wow. That musta been an interesting career. That business probably changed over that 30 years quite a bit.

Bubba: It did. It became a lot more consolidated and a lot more difficult for an independent to survive in the business.

Russ: Yeah, okay. Now before I let you go, let's imagine that we have a young aspiring businessperson, maybe, I don't know, coming right out of school now, and real serious and they know how important their career and getting a good start is. What kind of general advice would you give him or her?

Bubba: First of all, get into something that you are passionate about. Follow your bliss, as Joseph Campbell would tell you. Secondly, find a business you can go in where you can have a mentor there. I think a mentor is worth ten years. I never had a mentor. But having a mentor who will work with you and teach you something is a lot more significant and important than the entry salary that you'll get in a business.

Russ: Really interesting.

Bubba: So follow your bliss. Find a mentor.

Russ: All right. Bubba, I really appreciate you sharing your story with us here on the BusinessMakers Show.

Bubba: Russ, thank you. Thank you for inviting me.

Russ: You bet. That's Bubba Levy, the president of Choice Energy Services, and this is the BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at thebusinessmakers.com.

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