Carol Brzozowski 2017-04-25 12:10:02
Throughout his career, Michael Edwards has developed a birds-eye view of just about every aspect of the energy sector. As such, he’s developed a keen sense of what makes an energy company—and its employees—successful. In 1998, Edwards formed the Power Recruiting Group (PRG), a global executive search and strategic consulting firm based in Woodlands, TX, that serves start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, focusing on energy industry needs including distributed energy, Combined Heat and Power (CHP), wind, solar, geothermal, Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), waste heat to energy, energy commodities, co-generation, natural gas, and large power generation, as well as companies that supply products to those markets. PRG recruits for every position from field service to C-level personnel. A few years ago, the need was for technical workers and engineers. Now, it’s for sales and marketing people as companies enter a deliverable mode or seek expanding opportunities. A “massive need” still exists for field service technicians in response to a significant attrition rate, notes Edwards, adding that some of his clients have started their own training programs to attract technicians. Edwards also notes significant risk aversion in changing jobs “because the economy is still not solid, although low oil and gas prices in many cases help the power industry. One reason I got into the power side of the business is the oil and gas business is boom-or-bust.” What He Does Day to Day Edwards spends most of his time evaluating and submitting candidates for PRG client employment requests. The remaining time is spent working on projects for Acresis, a company he helped found which advises other company founders on how to scale, liquidity alternatives, and wealth management. What Led Him to This Line of Work Edwards grew up in Houston, immersed in a local economy that at the time was dominated by the energy sector. After earning a BBA in finance from Baylor University and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas, Edwards took employment in the natural gas industry as retail markets began opening up. “It was an exciting time where it was new and there was money to be made,” he says. “There was an opportunity to save companies a lot of money because you were able to cut costs significantly. While I was selling natural gas contracts to these companies, I was also talking with them about building power plants and going off of the grid.” His company built custom power plants, but expenses and financing challenges forced a migration toward packaged plants which could be replicated and were easier to install and move if necessary. Edwards also did sales and marketing for Strategic Resource Solutions, a CHP development company, followed by a stint for Hess Microgen, which provided packaged CHP and distributed generation. In 2005, Edwards became a founder, shareholder, and executive vice president of sales and marketing of Calnetix Technologies, which developed a product that converted thermal energy to electricity. GE purchased the company in 2010. What He Likes Best About His Work Edwards finds it gratifying to help people progress in their careers, obtain roles that excite them, or get them out of a situation in which they are between roles and get them back to work. He is grateful his work has not only advanced alternative energy, but the careers of many people who are now presidents and CEOs of companies he placed them in years ago. His Greatest Challenge Helping industry talent progress also is a challenge for Edwards. “Sometimes a company is its own worst enemy, being counterproductive and counterintuitive from a recruiting or personnel perspective,” he says. “The industry’s best teacher is the ability to look back on companies that have not done well and point out the reason they ended up failing.” Successful companies merge such historical lessons with their own goals when making personnel decisions, says Edwards. “Our main goal is that company’s success,” he says. “If they succeed, we succeed and they employ more people and improve the industry as a whole. It’s a tough industry regardless of fuel prices and rising utility rates. Environmental rules and regulations make it difficult to compete. The balance between the environment and profit has to be reasonable.” DE Carol Brzozowski specializes in topics related to energy and technology.
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