Rob Snyder of the Dallas-based retail energy provider Stream Energy peeks at his BlackBerry near the end of an interview with D CEO. During the course of our 50-minute talk, he’d looked at it just once before—to Google the title of a book he’d finished a few days earlier. Now he’s staring at a text message from Paul Thies, Stream’s senior director of communications, who just happens to be in the same room with us. Earlier, Snyder had mentioned that Ezra Pound, although not his favorite poet, had written the greatest “failed” effort in modern poetry; texted Thies: “Rainer Maria Rilke is better.”
Snyder, a boyish-looking former college soccer player who still plays for Dallas’ Azzurri club, co-founded Stream in 2004, following deregulation of Texas’ energy market, even though he knew nothing about the industry at the time. The company sells electricity using a wholly owned subsidiary called Ignite Energy, which is staffed by independent, work-from-home sales associates. It has grown steadily since Snyder spotted an opportunity and seized it.
Co-founder and chairman of Stream Energy 0
It would be what I’m doing now. … My history is in the private equity industry, so, never having done a startup, if you’re going to do only one startup in your life, this was probably the one to do.
Working as a mergers-and-acquisitions attorney on Wall Street. I loved the hours, and I loved the stress. The thing that I hated most about the job was that when you have a base business mentality, it doesn’t work well in a legal environment. Lawyers are in the business of making sure that their clients never get in trouble, so I’d bill five hours on an issue that [had] like a 1 percent probability [of becoming a real problem]. … From a client standpoint, the whole time I was thinking to myself, this is crazy. … Where’s the risk-reward? Where’s the cost/benefit analysis? Attorneys don’t do that.
Mowing yards and selling cable TV door-to-door.
The best advice was given to me by Mike Boone of Haynes and Boone. Mike told me 25 years ago to support myself with smart, hardworking people—people smarter than myself, people more hardworking than myself. He said they’d make me a genius.
BEST PART OF YOUR JOB
We have about 170,000 Ignite associates out there who market Stream Energy’s energy. It’s meeting these people and hearing how Stream Energy and Ignite has changed their lives.
LIFE IN THE OFFICE
We try to make [the company] a pretty family-focused environment. I personally believe that if somebody’s not happy at home, they’re not going to be happy here. One of the things we’ve always demanded … is that people take off the right amount of time to do family stuff.
I have four kids: a sophomore at Notre Dame, a junior at Jesuit, an eighth grader at St. Rita, and a fourth grader at Holy Trinity. …I met [my current wife] in the bar of the INFOMART, which is kinda funny because I don’t drink. It was about 7 on a weeknight, and I was looking for our chief of operations. … My wife, who is a Cisco Systems router geek for a financial institution, was down there visiting with a friend. … What sold me at first was that for the first two weeks that we dated, she thought I reported to my operations chief.
Chase my kids around, play soccer. Go to the lake with my wife and kids.
One book that is there permanently is The Cantos by Ezra Pound. Also, the recent biography on Warren Buffet. The third one, I just finished reading, was a very short book: Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.
Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, on Showtime. What (Penn & Teller) do is shoot down conventional wisdom. Also Through the Wormhole. It’s a fascinating show.
Obsessively ADHD. And what I mean by that is that I alternate probably between micromanaging and giving people too much room to hang themselves. We’ve got a real easy rapport around here.
IF YOU WEREN’T CEO
I’d probably be back doing private equity, being an investor. Either that, or a soccer coach.