A1 Energy, an energy consulting firm, first opened its doors just over a decade ago. “We were selling energy efficiency before it was cool to be energy efficient,” Jon Porreca said.
Porreca is one member of a small, family-centric staff that manages the day-to-day administrative operations in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a town roughly 80 miles west of Philadelphia. A1 Energy partners with contractors to assist governmental agencies, industrial, and commercial clients in maximizing their energy efficiency.
“When the go-green movement hit that really helped the energy industry, and it helped our business grow,” he said. “We got our start with coordinating the installation of high-bay industrial lighting systems, and to this day, lighting is still a lot of what we do.”
For a lot of small, family-owned businesses, effective communication and streamlined project management are vital to success. Every penny spent on a time-saving office suite or on CRM technology needs to generate healthy return and aid in the overall growth of the business.
“We weren’t the most tech savvy back when we started,” Porreca said.”We didn’t even have something as simple as Excel spreadsheets to track anything. Each person had their own system that they used, but there was no repository to keep and to share information. Eventually our business grew to the point where we needed to make a change in our processes.
After this realization, A1 knew it needed a straightforward system that could manage its energy projects and enable easy follow-up with client leads. There was one problem though:no one knew what type of system they were looking for.
Porreca came on board the family’s business in 2009. At the time, A1 Energy executed most of its communication and project management through Outlook and old-fashioned pen and paper.
“Honestly, at that point, I didn’t even know what a CRM was or how it could help us,” he said.
But as he began to search for a better way to get the company organized, he stumbled upon Zoho.
“I thought ‘man we could really use something like this to organize our data so that everyone can be on the same page and know what was going on anywhere, anytime.‘ I knew immediately that Zoho CRM was something we needed to try.”
Starting with a Small Bite: Trying Zoho CRM
Porreca’s CRM knowledge evolved quickly, as he found Zoho CRM easy to understand and integrate with his business from the beginning.
“I appreciated all of the options and loved the a la carte experience – I picked what I needed and when I needed to use it. It was also incredibly easy to learn, which is saying something as I had zero prior CRM experience.”
Within weeks of implementing Zoho CRM, A1 Energy experienced immediate time savings and huge organizational improvement.
“The results came fast. We were able to view and edit information efficiently and spend a lot less time searching for things that previously sucked up a lot of our time.”
Adding More Zoho to the Plate to Grow a Business
“Most of our projects are subcontracted as we don’t have any contractors on staff,” Porreca said. “I’ve modified the Potentials module so that it serves as a project management app.”
This helps him to track project milestones and dates, and the progress and status of everyA1 Energy contract.
“What I’ve found to be the most consistent is how easily I can mold the CRM to fit the needs of our business,” Porreca said. “I wouldn’t even want to know where we’d be without Zoho.”
With the success of Zoho CRM, A1 Energy decided to explore other Zoho applications. Porreca implemented Zoho Creator to build a custom order management app that lets him track custom orders. A1 Energy utilizes Zoho Survey to request feedback from customers after any given order has been completed. They also added Zoho Campaigns for email marketing and use Zoho sites to build all of their websites.
“It’s huge for us that all the Zoho applications integrate together,” he said. “A system that is fully integrated allows for business-client contact to move seamlessly and with fewer moving parts.”
Porreca explained that in the next year, A1 Energy will expand, with at least two new divisions in renewable energy and energy procurement. He anticipates that those extensions of A1 Energy will put Zoho Creator and CRM to even greater use.
Porreca calls himself the “one-man cheerleading squad within the company,” because of all the changes he advocates in streamlining the use of Zoho products across different divisions of the company.
“Our next goal is to integrate Zoho Books in our accounting department, as it will further add to the efficiency of our business, integrating across departments.”
“It is always my goal to figure out how we can get projects out the door more accurately and more quickly,” Porreca said. “And from past experiences, I can attest that the integrations between Zoho apps will help us do that.”
What Would You Say to Other Customers About Zoho?
“With other products you end up paying for stuff that you might not use, but with Zoho you pick what you need. It is incredibly easy to use, and, given that we weren’t using a CRM before introducing Zoho to our business, it was very easy to learn. We would recommend Zoho every day of the week!“
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