Stream – a Dallas-based company that has been operating for more than 10 years – has established a strong industry position as the undisputed leader in direct sales of energy services, as well as a variety of other products. At present, Stream has yearly revenues of just under $1 billion.
Since its initial launch, Stream has dramatically expanded the geographic footprint of its sales. At present, the company sells its energy services in the following states: Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Delaware, Ohio, and the District of Columbia. But it is not just the company’s geographic footprint that has multiplied. The company has also significantly expanded the products it sells, moving beyond the energy sector by recognizing consumers’ needs across all areas of life and meeting those needs with innovative offerings, such as wireless and protective services.
Stream’s Entry into Wireless Services
Today, Stream is selling more wireless services than ever before by recognizing that more and more consumers are seeking these services at a more attractive price point in an industry that is monopolized by a small handful of companies. The entry into wireless and other new services has required Stream to adjust its time horizons for success. New business segments bring on a whole host of unique challenges, and the best way for companies and their employees to learn how to tackle these challenges is by jumping in headfirst. Stream has firmly committed itself to analyze what it can do better. And part of this improvement plan involves revising and upgrading the training offered to its staff and Associates. In this way, the company can maximize its upside potential. Associate education is critical, and much of this training has paid off. The wireless division has become cash flow positive this year, and there is an indication that the revenue growth will continue to skyrocket.
Much of the focus on educating Associates and equipping them with the skills needed to become innovators is predicated upon the beliefs and business vision of Mark Schiro, who has served as Stream’s CEO on two separate occasions. Schiro prides himself on his ability to listen to and anticipate client needs while fostering strong relationships with other major industry players. These relationships help him work with executives and clearly understand what strategies or operations have been successful and the pitfalls associated with them. He then applies the winning strategies to his work with Stream. This essentially allows him to implement the more successful and proven strategies while avoiding the past pitfalls of his competitors.
Learning from Experience
One important thing that Schiro has learned from these conversations with other executives is that it is essential for Stream to publicly recognize the outstanding performance of its employees and associates. After all, people respond well to public recognition and other types of positive incentives. To formalize this, Schiro has created a position purely for Associate recognition and experience, appointing Chelsey Berend the Director of Events. In this role, Berend
and recognizing Associates who have gone above and beyond.
This carefully designed recognition program dovetails with Stream’s four-pronged corporate philosophy: “The best idea wins. Take out the panic. Work the problem. Be transparent.” Together, these aspects of the corporate philosophy help create a culture that provides its employees with positive incentives and a drive to achieve on behalf of the company.
Technology as a Driver
Schiro and the rest of the Stream team recognize that technology will play a critical role in the growth and development process; workforce associates need to have the necessary technological tools to drive their success. Schiro also understands that the company cannot simply keep up with technological innovations. Instead, Stream needs to be at the forefront of the charge – driving new innovations that set it apart from its crowded peer group. This requires a willingness to make investments in such innovations. Ideally, from a cost-benefit perspective, these costs will be outweighed by spikes in revenue.
One critical innovation has been the launch of the Interactive Voice Response, or IVR, system. This system allows Stream to have one centralized number that any customer can call. Callers are then redirected to the appropriate departments. This streamlines the customer service process and hopefully leads to more satisfied customers. This system is smart and intuitive because it gears the offered responses to the particular number that is dialing in. In other words, if a customer only has an account for energy services, he or she will only hear options related to this service. On the other hand, if a customer has roadside assistance, then he or she will hear options that are appropriate for this service. This minimizes the chance that a customer could potentially get confused or frustrated on a call and speeds up the time between a customer calling in and the problem being effectively resolved.
Another important feature of the IVR system is that it provide customers with a callback option. Stream recognizes that time is an invaluable asset and that people do not want to wait on hold. Through this unique response process, customers are called back when a representative is available. This process allows customers to tackle other pressing problems that they may have on their agendas.
A second key innovation is the Power Center, which is the back office support system for members of the Stream team. This new Power Center is designed to make sure that team members can access all the necessary information to do their jobs, which, in turn, will translate into happier customers. Information is available literally at the touch of a key. In addition to the newly unveiled, user-friendly Power Center, the company dramatically revamped its billing system platform for wireless services. This offers added convenience and allows Associates to sell bundled packages – dramatically increasing revenues for Stream and ensuring that customers get what they really want.
Revenue and Future Growth
Unlike many start-up companies that have experienced fits and starts with their revenue growth, Stream has largely achieved solid year-on-year growth, beginning from its very first year of operation. Growth has averaged approximately $800 million per year, which can be attributed to numerous factors. However, it is largely driven by the fact that Stream has never rested on its laurels. Instead, it continues to push the boundaries of what is possible, both from a business and technological perspective. Stream also embraces the concept of micro-entrepreneurship, understanding that associates are an important asset to channel. However, it is not always easy to find new areas for growth. As companies mature, it may take more effort to tap into growth potential and increasingly require them to think outside the standard box.
At the moment, Schiro and Stream are focused on growth opportunities in geographic markets that are largely untapped. Although Stream was initially launched in Texas, it still has not achieved a significant market share in the state. At present, it holds roughly five percent of the market share there. If Stream could capture more of that market share, its revenues would likely soar. There are pros and cons associated with this geographically-oriented approach. On the positive side, the company has an extensive track record of working in the Texas market. This experience allows it to understand the idiosyncrasies of the market and adjust as needed. Consumers, of course, can vary significantly from state-to-state in terms of preferences. However, on the downside, the Texas market is already extremely crowded and competitive. It may be challenging to capture new market shares there. The company is taking a realistic approach to both the upside and downside of this new expansion plan and, thus, has numerous other plans in place to spur potential growth.
Another potentially attractive market for Stream is the rapidly growing Hispanic market – both in Texas and in other parts of the country. Hispanics account for a growing share of the country’s demographic base, and Stream’s revenue from this market segment has shown dramatic increases over the last three years. As the Hispanic population continues to grow – particularly in states like Texas – the company will likely continue to benefit.
Other Revenue Streams
The company also recognizes the positive potential of some of its newly launched associated services, such as Stream Virtual MD. This innovative service allows subscribers to interact with and utilize phone or video chat consultations with doctors for the low price of $1 per day. This is an attractive option for patients who may find traditional medical care too pricey. For this reason, it may also improve access to medical care for many vulnerable patient populations. Consulting doctors are highly qualified and can offer a wide range of necessary follow-up services, such as writing prescriptions.
Other services that may help spur Stream revenue are credit monitoring, identity protection, and roadside assistance. Stream’s Roadside Assistance program offers its customers towing, as well as a wide range of additional services 24/7. Additionally, Stream is able to do all this at an attractive price point. Stream charges only $120 per year – as opposed to AAA’s comparable service at $225 per year. Identity theft is a growing problem in the United States. Not a week seems to pass without a news story highlighting a data breach. Identity theft can cause countless problems for individuals, while simultaneously costing the economy hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Stream’s service protects against these potential risks in a user-friendly way. Its credit report monitoring service also offers the same types of benefits to consumers.
Building and Selling Relationships
Underscoring these focuses on different market segments is an unswerving focus on building relationships. These relationships are important both with customers and with employees and associates. Even though Stream is selling products, from wireless services to electricity, what the company is ultimately selling are relationships based on trust and communication. In fact, Schiro explains that the employees and associates are part of the Stream family – and these are not just empty words. Schiro and his executive management team undertake steps to ensure that people truly feel this way. The management team at Stream believes that if its employees and associates buy into these concepts, they are likely to work harder – building strong momentum that will translate into economic indicators, such as higher revenues.
Philanthropy and Building a Community
The company believes that it is not enough simply to care about its employees. Instead, Stream believes that it is essential to care about the broader communities in which it operates. Therefore, Stream has launched the Stream Cares Foundation – a broad philanthropic initiative focused on both local and national issues. One of the most important focuses of this foundation is homelessness, particularly that which affects children. Understanding that organizations can achieve more by combining resources and expertise, Stream has formed effective partnerships with a wide range of organizations throughout Texas and the country as a whole. As part of this initiative, the company recently partnered with Splash for Hope outings for homeless children in the Dallas area, recognizing the huge emotional and psychological cost that homelessness can have on youth. These events are designed to inspire children and provide them with a positive outlet.
Stream has also donated significant funds to help people affected by natural disasters, including tornadoes and hurricanes. The company also actively participates in energy assistance programs in the states and regions in which it operates – helping make energy more affordable for low-income consumers. All of these efforts are geared towards positively improving the lives of those involved with Stream– both internal and external.
Built on Innovation and Industry Disruption
Stream was originally launched more than a decade ago – as an innovator and disruptor in the energy sector. In its more than 10 years of operation, the company has successfully carved out a significant market niche. Today, its revenues exceed more than $1 billion per year, and the company is not resting on its success. Instead, it is looking at a variety of ways to increase its revenues. These plans range from focusing attention on underserved markets, such as Texas and Hispanic populations, to launching innovative new services. When considering new services, the company carefully looks at the needs of the population: What are people concerned about? And once it has identified these needs, Stream launches new services that are grounded in best practice standards. Yet, even as Stream launches these new products and innovations, the company remains committed to its strong core principles of building successful, long-term relationships with everyone with whom the company interacts. Stream believes that this focus sets the company up for long-term success.