Early next year, Helen Booth, Director of Pricing at Competitive Energy Services will be celebrating 23 years with the company. Helen spends her workdays managing pricing requests for RFPs on behalf of clients, along with other client relations functions and activities. Helen’s institutional knowledge and experience benefits clients as well as CES colleagues every day of the year. Helen finds the energy industry and he ever-evolving nature fascinating and considers the CES team her family away from home – attributes both to her long stay with the company. In the interview below, learn about Helen’s early days with CES, the indelible mark it’s left on her heart and life, and on the many creative interests and passions that add to her uniqueness.
“Helen Booth is indivisible from our success at CES. CES started more than 22 years ago by providing strategic electricity procurement services to a group of large energy consumers. So much has changed over the past decades as CES expanded service offerings and increased the number of clients we work with. Helen has grown alongside CES through this entire period - teaching me many things over our 20 years working together - and has calmly and expertly excelled at finding new and more efficient ways to help our clients. Her unmatched experience gained over two decades and many thousands of commodity contracts makes her the “go-to” resource whenever issues arise on the pricing team. Beyond her many contributions to our professional success, Helen’s positive influence on CES culture is notable. CES is extraordinarily lucky to have such a wonderful individual as part of our work family.” – Andrew Price, President & COO
Join us in congratulating Helen on her milestone anniversary with CES. Here’s to 23 years and beyond!
You hold the title at CES as its first and longest standing employee, having been with the company for 22+ years. Tell us about those early days and how your CES story began?
As the company was forming in 2000, Rich Silkman and Marc Isaacson were looking for administrative support to help with the day-to-day operations. They had recently moved into the office space at 148 Middle and at the time, we occupied the first floor, not the fifth as we do today. Previous tenants of the building recommended me, I interviewed, and was hired. I often refer to myself as “coming with the office space.”
When I started at CES, one of my first projects involved building the client database and included keying monthly usage numbers. It was very different than it is now. At the time, my daughter Megan was 7 weeks old. I was also taking night classes at the University of Southern Maine (business degree) and working full time. During those formative days for the company, we mostly handled Maine-based company accounts. After a couple of years, we branched out to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. When I think about it now, I smile remembering how we sent everything by fax. We also had one supplier at the time, and we would aggregate clients into a manageable pool – e.g., March, September, and December. In so doing, we would gather everyone’s loads and we would get approvals and sign people up from there. In the process, we would send 20-page contracts via FedEx to the clients, and they would sign and send it back. To package these envelopes, Mark, Rich, and I (and a couple of other team members who were soon hired) would gather around a table and assemble everything that would need to be included into the package – instructions, analysis, return labels, etc. We were a human assembly line. When we were done, Rich would drop off packages to a FedEx location in South Portland. We’ve come a long way since then, but those early days helped build a process and a company. When I think back on that time and how long everything took, I marvel at how quickly processes take now with email and e-signatures. Again, we have come a long way.
What has kept you engaged and interested in the energy industry for so long -- and why CES?
Specifically, about CES – it’s about how we’ve grown and evolved over the years. Mark and Rich are always at the forefront of new products and the products that we offer to clients continues to change. It is fascinating to me. As a company, we’re not doing the same things as we were then – and I’m not doing the same things. We have a great culture. Everyone is approachable. We can talk to anyone about anything – kids, sports, etc. Everyone is so human. It’s a very welcoming environment. Most importantly, we as a company are so incredibly brilliant. What we do, our continued, strong relationships with our clients, the suppliers we work with, and our colleagues – we have built something magical, and this is where I want to be.
The energy industry keeps me engaged because of the evolution of pricing and how much more energy efficient things are becoming – e.g., solar, wind power, etc. It’s more attainable to people and that’s interesting to me. It keeps CES interesting, and it keeps me here year after year. I love what I do and that’s why I’ve been here for so long. I love doing pricing, entering bids, and helping clients save thousands of dollars every year. I love being part of that.
What is your fondest memory from over the years?
My fondest memory is really the whole CES story -- and how much the company has grown and changed since its founding. The very laborious tasks are now done in a matter of minutes. It makes me proud to have been a part of that growth and success over the years. CES is an important part of my life experience and my memories. I’ve been at CES nearly half of my lifetime and the company, and my time here has played a significant role in my life experience.
How has your position evolved over the years?
As I mentioned earlier, it was very administrative at the beginning – data entry, FedEx packaging, answering phone, and basic organizational work. Then, I moved into more of a pricing role and began interacting with and sending that information to clients. At that time, we had a Texas office, and I would do pricing for them as well. As we would hire more people into pricing, we became more of a team effort vs. solo work, and it was nice to share this experience with others. In addition to maintaining a large client base for whom I continue to work with on pricing, I’m getting more into reporting and delegating pricing assignments as they come in, as well as assisting Max with billing and enrollment issues. I love all aspects of my work. It’s so different, so fast paced, and so challenging and there is a general set of steps for each client – but at any given point in time, clients are at varied stages, which keeps me on my toes. Key to my work is ensuring data accuracy, so that clients can make the best decision possible. All of this is very challenging and keeps me sharp. My superpower is that I’m very organized, which is critical to balancing all of this. And I simply love it.
What has inspired you most about working in the energy industry?
Becoming more aware of things that are happening in the world that can influence energy prices and how it effects businesses and residential users – heating oil, electricity, gas for vehicles, etc. Specific to CES, I’m always impressed at how we get ahead of trends in the market. We always make sure that we are ready to pivot and move when dips happen that could impact clients. Our team is always ready with expert advice and guidance and that set us apart. This alone inspires me every day.
How has CES influenced your life and professional trajectory?
Without CES, it’s hard to imagine what my life and career would look like. In many ways, it has molded me into the person that I am – professionally and personally. It’s partly because of the people at CES that make me want to say. They are my family away from home. I’m very attached to CES, Rich, and Andy. We have worked together since the beginning, and I could not imagine myself anywhere else.
What do you do when you’re not working? What are your interests?
I enjoy going on outdoor adventures with my children and grandsons at Bradbury Mountain State Park, Wolf’s Neck State Park, and Fort Williams Park, as well as, various road trips, exploring the eastern United States, as part of our homeschooling learning. A recent family road trip took us to Chincoteague Island, VA, where we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Luray Caverns in Virginia, as well as Congaree National Park outside of Columbia, South Carolina. I’m in my third year of home schooling my children, which has added a whole new dimension to my life. It’s been such a great experience and I’m enjoying learning right alongside them and being able to relate to them at a whole different level as a teacher. It’s been amazing. I also enjoy painting and spending time with my black Lab (who is needy!)
One last question. You’re quite an artist. Tell us about your creative life, how you began painting, and the influence it has had on you over the years.
Interestingly, I’ve never thought of myself as an artist. Growing up, I was a musician. I played the flute, clarinet, and saxophone and I taught myself how to play the oboe. I was very involved in music, and I was in a gifted talented program, and was in the Augusta Symphony Wind Ensemble when I was a senior in high school. Art was never in my life. It was music, but music and art are very closely aligned. I first discovered my artistic talents when I went to Muse Paint Bar in Portland and participated in a paint night there for my 40th birthday. Through that experience, I realized that I was able to see things differently with a paintbrush in hand, including the steps for creating a painting. I was able to learn that process and see paintings differently. I decided to buy canvases and paints for home and started painting almost every night and I was amazed to discover a talent that I didn’t realize I had. I was honored to create a few paintings for some clients a couple of years ago, including one for L.L. Bean, which I loved. It was a two-in-one of Mt. Katahdin which featured the Bean Boot. Today, I continue to paint with regularity, and it gives me joy. I get lost in the colors and in creating. It’s rewarding.
Photo by Nina Callanan