Fort Worth start-up bent on helping customers with energy costs

Abe Issa is founder and CEO of Global Efficient Energy in Fort Worth, which provides homeowners with energy efficiency improvements.
Abe Issa is founder and CEO of Global Efficient Energy in Fort Worth, which provides homeowners with energy efficiency improvements. Star-Telegram

If there’s one thing Abe Issa says he learned flipping residential real estate, it’s that homeowners are concerned about energy costs.

So when Issa, 32, found himself down on his luck in 2010 after the housing market bust, he started researching what those homeowners were talking about.

In August 2011, Issa said, he took $1,000 and started Global Efficient Energy, a company that provides home energy audits and then helps homeowners find products needed to reduce their energy costs.

Instantly, Issa became a door-to-door salesman.

“I would call homeowners myself. I would go door-knocking,” he said. “It was tough.”

The hard work is paying off. Revenue grew from the very start, and Issa now forecasts $60 million in revenues and 26 offices nationwide by the end of 2016 — with hopes of taking the company public in 2017. The company has more than 300 employees in six states.

And this year he is a finalist in the prestigious Ernst & Young Young Entrepreneur awards program, which recognizes successful executives. TCU, where he graduated, tapped him to help with its massive business school expansion program, and he made a $500,000 donation.

David Noyes, the company’s chief financial officer, said he met Issa through a mutual friend more than a year ago. Noyes was so impressed that when Issa asked him to join the firm, he said there were no doubts.

“Abe is pretty dynamic,” Noyes said. “I saw opportunity here. I’m here because I’m quite sure we can grow this. He’s really behind taking care of the customer.”

Noyes has been involved in five initial public offerings and said Issa’s company goal of going public is attainable.

Most of Global Efficient Energy’s sales are in foam attic insulation and solar panels. Customers buy the panels, which are installed, compared with other firms where customers lease the products, Issa said.

“We’re the only one in the industry that does it this way,” Noyes said.

Poor upbringing

Issa was born in Beirut during a time of conflict. Since his father had dual citizenship in the U.S., the family moved to Fort Worth when Issa was 5. He became a U.S. citizen in 1992.

“As a child growing up there, you would hear mortar shells and rockets,” Issa said. “Buildings would shake. There were nights I would wake up and hear the war going on.”

In 2005, Issa graduated with a finance degree from TCU.

During his senior year there, he worked at AC Properties selling investor-owned homes. He sold 72 homes that year and paid off his hefty student loans.

After graduation, Issa partnered with another TCU graduate in the real estate business. But when that partnership went sour, he went into business for himself, buying foreclosed properties and reselling them. Issa admits that he got overconfident with all the money he was making and took his eyes off the business. And that did him in. Banks started calling notes, and he was nearly bankrupt.

That’s when he created Global Efficient Energy. For the first nine months, he was out in the field peddling his company and products. He did the energy audits for customers, bought products, handled marketing and sales, set up relationships with vendors and took care of quality assurance.

“Green was in its infancy,” Issa said. “There’s a lot of room for growth.”

Driven for growth

Issa said a strong work ethic and passion drive his success. He also loves sales.

“I’m real passionate about what I do,” he said. “Credibility is important. I really do want to help people. We want to make a difference and an impact in this world. I’ve got a chance to do that with this company and the industry we’re in. It would be nice one day to have a green energy company that everyone knows.”

Issa learned this month that he is a finalist for the Ernst & Young award. The program recognizes entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. The winners will be announced in late June.

Issa describes himself as a self-starter. For inspiration, he said he follows the heralded innovator Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, and actor Dwayne Johnson, better known as The Rock, on Instagram. He also reads several business publications.

Issa said his passion about sales drove him to contribute $500,000 to TCU’s $100 million fundraising campaign at the business school, where the new Neeley Sales and Consumer Insights Center will include the Abe Issa Field Sales Lab to foster research in sales, service and customer decision making.

“It’s crazy these universities do not have sales centers and sales academies,” Issa said. “The ability to teach someone how relationships work and behavior insights … is super valuable.”

O. Homer Erekson, dean of TCU’s Neeley School of Business, said he could see the enthusiasm when he Issa to ask for a donation.

“He’s excited about the difference he could make,” Erekson said. “There’s no question he’s ambitious, a go-getter.”

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727

Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST