After graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, I had aspirations of being a famous rocket engine designer working for NASA. Unfortunately, defense contractors were consolidating and the Space Shuttle Challenger had just exploded resulting in a lack-luster aerospace industry. I got one job offer out of college and it was as a mechanical engineer intern in support of facility construction and maintenance. As an aerospace enthusiast, I had no idea stationary buildings even required mechanical engineering.
I started my career working for the U.S. Air Force as a mechanical engineer in a Civil Engineering Squadron on a Northern Tier Air Force Base. I loved my job and loved the people I worked with, but I felt like I needed more. After getting restless with the seemingly slow advancement in civil service, I put my resume out to several large automation controls manufacturers. I was excited when Honeywell Inc. called me for an interview. At the end of my first interview, the human resource representative gave me a green sheet of paper and informed me that my next interview would be a first-call sales role play with my prospective boss. I was heart-broken when I knew that Honeywell’s job opportunity was in sales. After all, sales people are cheaters and liars; and I wanted no part of that kind of career. I decided I wanted to get out of civil service more than I didn’t like sales and so I prepared for my second interview and got the Honeywell job supporting a sales team who sold energy conservation projects to public sector clients.
It wasn’t long until I discovered that I loved sales. I loved uncovering client needs. I loved creating an innovative solution to my client’s problems. I loved the drama of being in the hunt and working for a successful close. I loved differentiating our offering against the competition to win highly competitive sales. I was eventually promoted to a Sales Manager position in Honeywell… which I eventually learned was a financial demotion; and an increase in responsibility. That’s why I was delighted when Honeywell changed my job to a sales executive position in 1997 after a re-organization. Three months after my happy transition, I was disappointed when I learned of the reduced sales commission plan.
When these events unfolded with Honeywell, I decided to leave Honeywell and create a small energy engineering consulting firm called Ennovate. I joined some friends to consult with utility companies who wanted to start energy conservation enterprises for electric utility companies after the threat of deregulation in the late 1990’s. I was petrified to start out on my own. Our consulting agreements were 6-months; and each of our utility company clients did not renew their agreements after the six months period had lapsed. Out of pure fear, I tried to develop other business opportunities, just in case I could not get another utility consulting gig. Sure enough, in 2001, the consulting jobs dried up. It was at this point, I approached the State of Colorado to apply for an open consultancy job to help small agencies create Requests for Proposals for energy efficiency projects. The state indicated that the consultant’s job had been filled; but that I may be well-suited to provide energy efficiency projects in response to RFP’s.
So here I was in my home office with a negative net worth thinking about competing against Fortune 100 companies to construct multi-million dollar turn-key energy efficiency retrofit projects. In addition to the traditional risks associated with construction, these retrofit projects included a guarantee that clients would save enough money on their utility bills to pay all or a portion of the cost of construction. These guarantees amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual risk. I was almost shocked when I won my first opportunity for a small Eastern Colorado School District on my first try. Who would have guessed? Small schools love small energy service companies. After word spread of the great work Ennovate did for our first customer, my small energy efficiency company started to grow. I was then compelled to partner with others and eventually started hiring employees to help with the workload.
In my fifth year of business, I was approached by a business consultant who rightfully claimed that I was not running my operation like a business; and could benefit from casting a vision and developing an organization that could grow. After taking their advice and growing my company, we reached a peak of $10,500,000 in annual revenue with 26 full-time employees.
In 2012, I believed that some of the larger energy service companies could offer clients better services with the expansion of the renewable energy technologies that seemed out of reach for a small energy service company like Ennovate Corporation. It was then that I negotiated the sale of Ennovate to Ameresco Inc., which closed in February 2013.
As part of the sale of Ennovate Corporation, I was to stay on and lead an expanded territory which included Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. I was excited to take on this new role as the Vice President for the Ameresco Rocky Mountain Region. Unfortunately, our newly merged Rocky Mountain Region was not as effective as I had hoped. We struggled the first year losing some great opportunities. In the fall of 2013, I was diagnosed with a failing heart valve that needed immediate attention. My heart surgeon told me that I would have to take six weeks off of work for the surgery and subsequent recovery period. I remember feeling joy after hearing this news. It was at this time, I first questioned my happiness in my job. After all, why would I be glad to do a risky surgery? I always new I had a stressful job, but always believed I was content. I made it through my heart surgery, but struggled to get re-engaged in my role at Ameresco Inc. In the Spring of 2014, I told my boss I wanted to resign. I was confused. I had a great job, was paid quite well, with an outstanding company and a great boss. Why was I so miserable?
After resigning my job at Ameresco Inc., I tried to catch up on things around my house and wrote and published a few books. I felt like I wanted to get back into the business ownership role and so started investigating buying a franchise. After looking at several franchise opportunities, I wasn’t happy with the choices, but was intrigued by one franchise which engaged in business coaching. I liked the idea of using my wealth of knowledge as a small business owner to help other small business owners navigate the challenges of business ownership. After consulting with a friend, he told me that I would probably not be happy with a franchise, but could probably start my own consulting practice. He added that I should also consider coaching as part of my business offering.
I completed an intense formal coaching training with Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) and obtained my Professional Coaching Certification. Jeff Schuster Business Coaching includes business coaching services specifically designed to help business owners in three stages of business growth: 1) Startup; 2) Emerging; and 3) Growth. Each one of these phases of business development presents a unique challenge and requires an approach that is suitable to the owner in this phase. Most startup business owners need a lot of relevant knowledge in a very short amount of time. So, I have developed a quite affordable weekly online training system that allows startup business owners to pick up marketing and sales knowledge to quickly gain the customers they so desperately need. Emerging business owners often struggle creating a reliable pipeline of customers and struggle with creating the profitability they need in order to fund needed growth. Growth business owners tend to struggle with what I call “head trash”. The stakes become higher, and their thinking becomes muddled. So, I provide Life Coaching for growth business owners to help them excel in this phase of their business development.
I formed Jeff Schuster Business Coaching because I want my clients to grow through their phases of business development with much less stress and turmoil than I experienced when I thought I could do it on my own. I know how you feel as a business owner, because I have experienced your doubt, your fear, your frustration, your uncertainty and your anxiety. If you want to contact someone who has been where you are and can genuinely help you, please fill out the contact form below.