By Yvette Montoya
Abe Issa is a part of the growing number of single working fathers in the United States, and like many working dads, he starts his day by making breakfast for his two-year-old daughter, checking emails, preparing mentally for the day, dropping his daughter Katherine off at school, and heading to the office. But unlike other single working fathers, Abe Issa is the founder and CEO of one of the fastest growing solar and green energy solutions companies in the United States.
Since Issa started Global Efficient Energy (GEE) in 2011, the company has grossed over $50 million in revenue and has expanded from its flagship office in Fort Worth, Texas, to seven new locations throughout the greater Texas area, Louisiana, Florida, and North Carolina; with planned expansions on the books for Nevada, Arizona, California, and New York as well. This feat, for any company, is impressive. The increased public interest in renewable energy, paired with the sweeping state and federal solar initiatives, have taken many people by storm. Although solar makes up ~1% of the American electricity market, as oil prices collectively drop, the solar surge seems to be gaining speed, and fast. Solar has grown at a rate of more than 60% per year in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down. Companies like SolarCity, Vivint Solar, Sungevity, and Sunrun are all spreading across the United States like wildfire; but Global Efficient Energy (GEE) is coming after them.
Unlike the aforementioned solar providers, GEE offers a variety of other products and in-home green solutions. Issa has created a product that his competitors don’t offer, by bundling packages that include energy efficiency, energy management control systems, and power conditioning devices that can be combined with solar panel installation. In fact, GEE’s energy-saving products precede the company’s solar enterprises. Issa began his multi-million-dollar company going door-to-door, giving free in-home energy evaluations that determine where a home’s energy could be saved and optimized. Three years, and soon-to-be $60 million later, the in-home evaluations are still free and are still GEE’s bread and butter. Issa likes to give customers an opportunity to maximize the savings on their solar panels or forego the panels all together and simply find the energy-draining spots in their homes. Issa recalls the first few times he presented his products to a new customer: “the reception was great and people were really excited about being able to save money. I realized I was providing an important service.” Coming off the abrupt end of what was once a successful real estate career, Issa was forced to reexamine his goals and direction. “I went from multi-millions to $15,000 in my bank account. I had to be like ‘ok, what’s next.’ ”
Between 2005 and 2010, Issa flipped 500+ residential and commercial properties in Dallas, Fort Worth, and South Texas. His Company (A.G.I. Real Estate) was worth millions and, at age 27, Issa was on top of the world. Fulfilling his dreams so early on in his life seemed to defy all odds, but Issa never “made excuses” and never let his humble beginnings hold him back. Issa’s parents came to the US fleeing the bloody 16-year civil war in Lebanon that displaced 900,000 Lebanese and killed over 100,000. Five-year-old Issa and his Mother and Father arrived in Texas in 1987, scared and with few belongings. Issa’s father George had married an American in the early 1970s and lived in the Boston, Massachusetts, for a number of years, before moving back to Beirut when the marriage dissolved. It was thanks to his dual citizenship that the Issa family was able to move stateside. He married Margo in the late 1970s, and on December 23rd, 1982, Abraham George Issa was born. It was not long after that George decided Lebanon was no longer a safe place to raise a family. What Issa remembers about Lebanon are the gunshots, mortar shells and the combat that went on only a few feet away from his home, “I remember one time a mortar shell hit 30 yards from our house. It was really scary. But as a kid you don’t really understand what’s going on.”
When they arrived in the US, they stayed with Issa’s father’s ex-wife, in her tiny apartment in Fort Worth, TX, until they were able to afford their own place. And while his mother and father struggled to support their growing family in a new country, young Abe already had his eyes on the kind of life promised by the American dream. As a kid, Abe already knew that he wanted to make money — he just didn’t know how yet. “I used to watch Michael Jordan on TV and I wanted that. I wanted to be the best at something.” When his 6th-grade class held the yearly chocolate-selling fundraisers, he had his sights set on the $250 prize. “It wasn’t a lot of money but to a kid it seemed like a whole lot. Especially for someone from a poor background. I knew I wanted to win. I would get out of school and sell til’ it got dark. I’ve always been really competitive, I’ve always tried to be the best.”
The loss of his real estate company in 2010 was a hard blow, but not one that Issa took long to recover from; “I started doing research and trying to figure out what the next big thing would be. Solar and energy efficiency was still in its infancy stages. I knew I had to jump on it. Failure wasn’t an option.” In 2011, with only $1,000, Abe Issa began what is now Global Efficient Energy. “I started experimenting with energy-efficient retrofits. Calling, door-knocking, and setting up appointments. Within the first 45 days we made a revenue of over $100,000. That’s when I knew I was really onto something.”
Issa’s success, in part, can be attributed to his innovative spirit and salesmanship. His colleagues describe him as “dynamic,” “passionate,” and “hardworking,” all traits Issa values in the powerful, successful men (Elon Musk, Michael Jordan, The Rock) he looks up to, and now at 32, tries to emulate. Issa attributes the loss of his real estate company to inexperience. “I was young with a large amount of money, I thought it would last forever. I took my eyes off the prize. I wanted to go have fun, a lot if it was immaturity but growing up had a lot to do with it too. I learned the hard lessons on my own. I didn’t have anyone to guide me. It taught me to look at the guys who build companies and maintain them like Branson and Musk.”
Now Issa surrounds himself with a team of seasoned professionals. His first important addition in 2013 was Keri Anderson to Director of Operations and eventually to Vice President of Operations. Keri spent over 20 years in the Mortgage Banking Industry, where she was responsible for the Origination of Mortgage Loans. In February of 2014, Abe appointed David P. Noyes to CFO. Noyes has 25 years in the green energy sector and has been CFO to five publicly traded companies. Next, he appointed Pamela A. Daily as Vice President of Marketing in May of 2014. Pam has over 25 years of proven solutions in the National Marketing arena, serving as CMO, President, and Executive VP for companies poised for accelerated growth and expansion into the Fortune 500/1000 status. Abe’s most recent addition to his Executive Team, in late 2014, was Gary DeMel, as VP of Business Development. DeMel has served as the Chief Operating Officer of Shovon LLC and as an Executive Vice President at Micro Imaging Technology, Inc. These are only a few of the professionals Issa has put on his board of directors in order to give GEE the guidance and structure that it needs not just to succeed, but to endure.
GEE is one of the “Top 10 Solar Contractors in the US,” which is great but isn’t good enough for Issa. “I won’t be satisfied until I’m number one, and even when I reach the top, I’m going to still want more.” It’s in his competitive nature to always be looking up and over into new markets and new opportunities. And because of his passion and drive, GEE’s been receiving awards left and right. Issa won the 2014 CEO World Award for environmental sustainability, made INC’s 35 under 35 coolest entrepreneurs of 2014, and GEE was one of INC’s 500 fastest-growing companies. He was also featured in 40 under 40 Real Difference Makers in Tech and Business and even received an official letter from Congresswoman Kay Granger thanking GEE for its commitment to the country’s long-term energy needs. Overall, it’s not bad being Abe Issa right now. But he doesn’t stop there. GEE has some top-secret investments in wind power, but Issa is not inclined to talk about the details of its residential application, since the technology is still being developed. “I don’t even want to talk about that. But we’ve got some very exciting things lined up for the future of GEE.” When asked about his free time, Issa says “What free time?” He works hard because he doesn’t like the taste of failure. This time around he’s armed and ready for the future and it is extremely unlikely that his new-found success will leave a bad taste in his mouth.
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