Bill Andrew: Cooperative Leader

April 19, 2012
As CEO of Delaware Electric Cooperative, Bill Andrew knows that the cooperative’s customers are the owners, and communications within the cooperative and with customers is important to keep the company thriving.

As CEO of Delaware Electric Cooperative, Bill Andrew knows that the cooperative’s customers are the owners, and communications within the cooperative and with customers is important to keep the company thriving.

"In the cooperative world, our customers are our owners, which provides them with a natural incentive to engage in all programs, especially those which save them money and make good business sense,” said Andrew. “Whenever I can discuss energy, customers, and our business opportunities, it creates an exciting learning opportunity."

Andrew will be providing insight on customer engagement and sustainability at the DNV KEMA Utility of the Future Leadership Forum on May 14-16 in Washington, D.C. The Forum features one and one-half days of discussions about the dynamic changes facing the utility industry and the paths that innovators have taken toward a sustainable energy future. Two CEO panels will explore the challenges of building the future utility in very different economic environments, while other panels will feature topics such as customers at the helm, sustainable power supply, and innovation and the future. Throughout the forum, there will be high-level networking opportunities to share perspectives, collaborate, and engage in dialog.

“Customers want to do the right thing. It is important that they understand and believe in what you are asking them to do,” Andrew said. “Customer engagement allows the utility to capture a very cost-efficient and powerful resource just by asking. I look at customer engagement as an in-direct resource that becomes extremely valuable during short periods. It will work as an excellent example of ‘Ask and you might receive.’”

Andrew brings experience in communications and in the electrical field to any panels or sessions he leads and participates in. As president and CEO of DEC, a member-owned electric utility serving 84,000 member-owners in Kent and Sussex County, Delaware, Andrew has had to assume teaching as one of his responsibilities. “We need to communicate and transfer our problem solving, technical and business knowledge and experiences across our enterprise to better equip and prepare our employee team to be competitive in our business.”

He said one of the most rewarding experiences is having an employee grow from opportunities and mentoring in the work place. “Communication and understanding is essential to move forward in your level of responsibility in the business.”

Throughout his career, he had been exposed to all aspects of the electric business. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BSME in 1977, and he received his professional registration in 1982. His utility experience covers 32 years, and he has been associated with all aspects of the utility business from gas to electric; operations to design; core business to subsidiary operations. Andrew joined Delaware Electric Cooperative in 1998 as vice president of Engineering and Operations and was promoted to his present position in January 2005.

He went into engineering when he learned what he did not want to do. “It is equally important to know what you do not want to do verses what you want to do when you are young. Hard physical work was no stranger but allowed me to realize that by educating myself and applying what I learned was more rewarding,” Andrew said. “Early on I realized that my engineering skills provided a foundation to build better business skills. Both engineering and business are an understanding science and can easily complement each other. I was lucky to enter the electric field and built my love for the business over the years.”

In his current position, he said that he tries to make a difference every day. And he advises others to not speak “engineer.” “Generally, people are more interested in what you have to say if you make it understandable and entertaining,” he said.

Not only does he enjoy the communications and business side of his job, but in his spare time, he is a NASCAR “nut.” He said he relates a lot of what NASCAR does to his business. “In racing ‘Everything is important.’ It is the same in business. We can always look at a business and learn from it,” he said. “ An excellent example is in marketing when during a red flag in the Daytona 500 this year a driver had his cell phone with him and because the race was stopped he started tweeting and captured 100,000 new followers. Now everyone in that sport advertises their sign-on.”

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