Tom Cummins is an American Business Tycoon and was a Speaker at the 2017 10X Growth Con hosted by Grant Cardone. Having grown American Power and Gas from humble beginnings to half a billion dollars, there’s nothing stopping this powerhouse machine from reaching the billion-dollar mark.
Tom how did becoming an entrepreneur start for you, did you know you always wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age?
I’ve always been a hard worker, always had a willingness to pay my dues. All of the people I grew up around were pretty much only willing to work 9-5. The difference between me and them is I could never find myself in that middle-class schedule. I just did what needed to be done. Over time that one principle has made the difference in my life.
I didn’t go home until my work was done.
Why did you decide to start American Power and Gas and go into the Energy business?
I went into the energy business about 20 years ago. The wealth that I created in telecom had evaporated if you will, and had run its course. I told myself, “Tom, you need to make a living again”.
I then saw an article in the journal that the energy industry was going through deregulation and thought that it might be a very interesting industry to jump in since was it just starting.
One little problem: I knew nothing about the energy industry.
I wanted control of my income and I understood for that to happen, I needed to get in the game again, and I wanted to play a big game. One thing I knew how to do, my secret weapon if you will was: I knew how make sales.
I started to do energy sales and in short span of time I got paid millions to do it from the biggest players in the industry.
As the competition built up, I saw that in order to expand, I needed to move up the food chain, I needed to become an energy company, a Brand.
We had to go through a massive learning curve to understand the ins and outs of the energy industry, which took us about two years. But we did it.
The tenaciousness we exhibited was the engine that fueled us to figure things out so we continued to grow.
What were your top 3 challenges in scaling the company to a $500 million-dollar machine?
- The first challenge was we had to deal with in the energy industry was that it just went through deregulation. Three were parties pushing for deregulation while there were others that were trying control it and oppose it. We had to sell in this environment that was always changing because of various laws and regulations going into effect one after the other, but we had to make it go right regardless. Navigating through this was challenging, to say the least.
- The second challenge was “the care factor” for our customers. Our company is a mass marketing operation and when you’re dealing with tens of thousands of human beings and industries, you have to have a system that will receive communication from your customers and enable you to resolve any issues related to them completely. This is really where having amazing customer service comes into play, as you have to be able to address all of their concerns and questions with care and precision. If you aren’t willing to sit there and deal with the complexities, and problems right away, it just gets worse. You have to be willing to deeply care for your customers.
- Third and arguably the most important challenge is––building a stable group of executives and supervisors that can actually hold their zone of responsibility to get their jobs done correctly and that can handle any barriers in their line of work.
If you lay it out correctly you expand, if you don’t then you contract. Most people get to a certain point and can’t scale as they lack a proper executive structure and then give up––they can’t handle the challenges of growing.
We’ve always rigged the game so if they win we’ve already won. We have an uncapped pay structure for our team, the way I see it if it’s correctly set up, if they’re making a ton of money, then that only means we’ll make more. There are certainly challenges with setting it up correctly, but if you do it right–it’s beautiful.
Those are really the 3 continuous things we do to scale our company.
We’ve made many millionaires within our own company because they’ve demonstrated they can handle the responsibility.
What is one piece of advice that you would like to give the next generation of entrepreneurs and young business leaders?
It would be twofold:
Always keep learning, don’t stop learning. I send myself to continuous education continuously–– that sounds stupid but it’s actually very well worded.
The second––it’s all about the people you surround yourself with. You have to surround yourself with like-minded people, if you can do that, that’s when you become an unstoppable force and that’s how you win in business and in life.
Are there any particular consumer trends you’re noticing in terms of renewable energy?
I’d say It’s interesting, the average person–– yes, they do want to have sustainable energy. With that said, there is a bit of a protest on it being too expensive, there’s only so much commitment they’re willing to put behind it.
You have to find that balance as there is a price increase. I mean, I have a number of friends that have Tesla Model S cars and are in love with them, but that’s an $80,000 car. Then you have them releasing the Model 3, that’s only $32,000––so when it comes to the consumer you really have to find the balance of where they’re really willing to make a shift in that regard as it does require more commitment in the short term.
When Tesla created the Model 3 that opened the market to a whole new segment of buyers. So I believe that the price of renewable energy will go down in time as more and more homes and businesses will adopt a green philosophy.
It isn’t a question of “is there something else” there isn’t. Renewable energy is the future of our society, it’s just a matter of educating enough people, fast enough and accelerate its adoption.
With stiff competition amongst pricing in the energy industry, how have you been able to separate yourself from the competition?
As a businessman, all our competition is internal–– it’s our corporate structure, or compensation plan, it’s the man in the mirror. It’s not brand x or y and z, sure there are competitors, but why worry about it? They exist, what you can control is you and your company.
What is your biggest failure in business and what is the lesson that has taught you?
As with all businessmen, the biggest barrier, the biggest “competition” is internal–– it’s our corporate structure, our compensation plan, our policies/strategies. As in all areas of life, it’s the man in the mirror. Any executive who states the reason for not succeeding is “over there” is assured to be a loser. It’s never brand X or Y and Z, sure there are competitors, but why worry about them? They exist and always will. But what you can handle, what you can have control over, is you and your company.
I’ll tell you we always known as humans that there are really good people out there in the world. What we don’t want to admit to ourselves, is there are some really nasty people out there as well.
ALL my disappointments, ALL my massive failures in life, and not just in business, is the failure to admit to myself that a person around me is super destructive and they need to go. The challenge is with the word “evil.”
When we hear that word (evil), we expect to see something that “looks like a witch, or maybe a troll from the bridge” and that is just not true. They can look like the best dressed executive, have that sweet innocence of your grandmother, or just some ordinary person. It’s not their appearance that counts, it really comes down to, are they truly there to make things happen, or are they INTENTIONALLY trying to stop things.
I promise, if you find it next to impossible to make things go right in life or in business, there is someone working just as hard as you are, but they’re working covertly towards the destruction of your goals. That is why I say it’s evil. They “say” they are your friend, they smile and act wonderful, but in their little black hearts is your demise, the destruction of your goals. Find and get rid of them before they bring more destruction into your life and your business.
If you were to die tomorrow, what are 2 pieces of advice you would want to give to world?
You have to have self-awareness, this is just a fundamental principle of life. The more you learn about you, you’ll learn about life and how to navigate it. You have to continuously learn about who you are which will lead you to learning how to take a bigger bite out of the apple of life.
The second, you have to have compassion for your fellow man, and recognize they’re basically good. Take the toxic people out of your life and you’ll flourish, prosper and bring others with you for the ride. Knowing you did that makes it all worth it.
How do you want people to remember you after you’re long gone? What is one thing you want them to say?
(Laughs) I’ll let you know when I’m ready, I’m not close to being done. I’ve still got a lot to do.