Anson Zhang is the co-founder & CEO of Discover Energy, an Australian-owned company committed to reducing daily emissions by combining green energy and giving customers the power to redistribute their energy back into the grid.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started my career as a Product Manager for ASUS Australia for a few years, before I moved on to establish One Stop Warehouse in 2013 and Discover Energy (DE) in 2018.
One Stop Warehouse is currently the largest distributor of solar panels and systems in Australia raking in $511 million dollars revenue last financial year.
Discover Energy is an energy retailer and was established when we envisioned how we could help thousands of Aussie households save on electricity costs in a highly regulated energy retail industry, while also advancing the revolution of green, renewable energy.
Discover Energy leverages OSW’s extensive solar network, and also hinges on AI, machine learning and deep solar data to allow our Virtual Power Plant (VPP) customers to participate in energy trading.
As CEO of both Discover Energy and One Stop Warehouse, my current responsibilities involve the broader corporate management for both companies, specifically focusing on capital raising, engaging potential investors, and business partners to integrate new businesses and strategies into our current business model.
I also place a lot of emphasis on talent acquisition and executive profiling as it is important that our team members in key strategic positions set the pace and standards for the business.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My working day starts at 10am and it’s usually full speed from there. As a CEO of two companies, I keep my daily schedule 50-60% full, knowing that I will need a buffer for anything ad-hoc that comes up during the day. This is important because when your staff approaches you, things are usually urgent, so you’ve got to be adaptable.
My schedule is generally more open in the morning – after lunch, my day is full of meetings and interviews.
Talent acquisition is a key part of my job and it’s not unusual for me to conduct 2-3 interviews every day. I oversee all departments across Discover Energy and One Stop Warehouse, in particular day-to-day sales and operations.
With both companies, I am also scoping out new business opportunities and cultivating synergies with current and future partnerships. After the working day in the office, I generally do about 1-2 hours of phone calls and emails after dinner, talking with our international partners and stakeholders.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, and no. I do believe that face-to-face is always better for an interview. For direct responses, remote working is hard. But I do spend a proportion of my working week remotely, or at home. I try to be adaptable because raising a young family can be all types of chaos.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
It’s been said many times before but a work-life balance is crucial to everyone’s general health and well-being. Without resting and recuperating it can make it extremely difficult to be able to turn up for my family and team members.
To ensure I’m keeping a clear head and staying healthy, I aim to get outdoors at least 2-3 times a week whether that be walking, basketball or soccer. My role can involve a lot of high stakes and so I use physical activity to help reset and from that, I’m usually able to approach problems with a fresh perspective and resolution.
Another way I keep my steps up is by conducting walking meetings (weather permitting) as I can sometimes have 2-3 hours of phone calls a day.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
COVID-19 has amped up the content I consume for inspiration and work, now I listen to a lot more podcasts and videos.
Before COVID-19, I mostly conducted face-to-face chats whenever I could, however, the last 12 months have taught me to be more adaptable. I have never been much of a social media person but I have definitely seen an increase in my screen time there, particularly LinkedIn as it’s always great to see what the business world is up to.
COVID-19 and the past few months have taught me to be more open to change, to be more agile – it’s taught me that you cannot plan everything. As cliche as it sounds, you have to expect the unexpected.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
One book that has really inspired me is Zero to One by Peter Thiel, which shows how entrepreneurs anchor singular and innovative ideas and manifest them into thriving startups and businesses.
Thiel’s ideas in Zero to One have been a template for both One Stop Warehouse and Discover Energy in how to create companies of longevity. One Stop Warehouse is really a zero to one hundred story – from a two-man band to Australia’s largest solar distributor but the ethos of creating something really new is really Discover Energy’s.
I believe Discover Energy is developing truly new tech and helping create fundamental disruption to the carbon-intensive way Aussie customers currently consume energy.
I’m also a big fan of TED talks, even ones that are not necessarily aligned with the energy industry/tech industry. They help me identify trends and activate futuristic thinking.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
LinkedIn, Facebook and WeChat – these platforms are central to my everyday work, it’s where I connect with our partners and also where we engage with our customers.
We built our own CRM system and employee management platform, Energy Brain and Solar Brain, which has been essential for making sure our strategic and sales goals are on track.
I also can’t live without de.VPP, which monitors the whole VPP (virtual power plant) infrastructure at DE – showing at any time how much renewable energy has been pumped into the grid and how much energy trading has been conducted for our customers that they profit from, as well as price forecasting.
I also always check the Discover Energy app, to make sure the customer UX is in good shape.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
No matter how busy you are, there is always time for what’s most important to you. I always make time for family – being completely present when I am with them is precious as these moments don’t last forever.
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