When Arizona entrepreneur Marty Silverman launched Energy Savings Group, Inc. in July of 2009, the economy was headed in every direction but up. Markets were about as stable as a mine field. And calling startup companies a bad bet was an understatement.

Unfortunately this defines what’s going on today, except for a few bright spots that pierce the gloom and doom. One is in the greater Phoenix area, where Silverman’s ‘bad’ bet is beginning to pay off.

ESG is a provider of specially designed fluorescent lighting systems for refitting warehouses as well as industrial, manufacturing, hospitality and multi-family facilities, among others. The company is expected to do $450,000 worth of business in 2011. Projections for 2012 top $500,000.

Reason for optimism

“Our numbers may not be huge, but they show progress, signaling bigger things to come,” Silverman said. He may sound like a cockeyed optimist, but in truth he’s a confident realist—willing and able to make the sales calls and the cold calls, develop the marketing plan and promotions and to do whatever else it takes to create a winner.

In 2009 the general belief was that it would take a miracle. Silverman’s research on the ESG venture turned up plenty of facts and figures pointing to the futility of launching a new business while the economy takes a nosedive. That bleak, recession-based assessment came as no surprise. But it was no deterrent, either.

“You bet I was confident. I knew we had a good thing going once I understood how much more advantageous today’s fluorescent lighting is compared with traditional incandescent and HID (High Intensity Discharge) systems,” Silverman replied when the issue came up.

Demanding Clients

“We deal mainly with people who are refitting buildings that house their operations. Maximum economy and installation of the most innovative, efficient, energy-saving equipment possible are essential. Thinking green is another ‘must’ these days. We have all three bases covered,” he added.

The numbers back him up. As a result, so do his clients.  Commercial/industrial users of ESG’s fluorescent lighting systems can expect up to 50% lower lighting energy costs. Cost reductions climb as high as 75% at buildings serving the hospitality and multi-family fields. The good news for greens is that the sharp reduction in energy consumption also causes a considerable drop in the amount of hazardous carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Clients aren’t the only ones giving ESG thumbs-up for a job well done. A local utility firm recently crowned the company a winner of its Outstanding Top 5 Contributors Award. ESG earned the honor by saving the firm’s customers over 5.5 million kilowatt hours of energy during fiscal year 2010-2011.

Down memory lane

Clearly, Marty Silverman has come a long way in a short period of time. And attitude had a lot to do with it. He is a man who focuses on possibilities rather than obstacles. Establishing ESG is a case in point. Knowing what could be, he never gave another thought to what might stand in his way.

ESG was almost a replay of 1967, when as a newly qualified Master Electrician, he formed I&M Electric Company in Detroit—sure of himself and the ultimate success of his company. Eighteen years later the name was changed to United Electric Company, and the operation moved to nearby Ferndale, Michigan.

In 2003, after countless 7-day work weeks, 12-hour days and holidays spent on the job, Silverman closed up shop and retired.

Marty’s loyal following

During his 36 years of ownership, the company generated revenue in excess of $50 million. But more meaningful than financial success was the loyalty of United Electric’s employees and clients. Silverman noted proudly that “over 80% of our clients and 90% of the folks who worked for United stayed with us from the start until I closed the business.”

Two years after retiring, he and his wife, Barbara, relocated to the Phoenix area. Silverman dubbed it “a nice place to live, also a place to be easily bored.”

Just about any placid, unchanging place on the planet would soon bore the ever-energetic Marty Silverman. A man who doesn’t sleep past 5 a.m., avoids retirement like the plague and welcomes challenges with open arms—“especially the ones where the odds are against me. They optimize my thought process.”

The green scene

So how did this 70-year-old human dynamo wile away the hours in a Phoenix suburb where he was bored silly? Answer: “I went job-hunting, of course.” And in a short time he soon signed on as head of purchasing for a large electrical contractor in the area.

While there he became interested in what he calls “the Going Green Theory” as it applies to retrofitting existing buildings with the newest in energy-saving lighting fixtures and devices. It wasn’t long before the entrepreneur bug bit him for the second time in his life. A green bug, at that.

Marty’s passion for “Going Green, combined with his vast in-depth electrical experience, led him to specialize in solving energy conservation and retrofitting problems by designing customized lighting and other applications.

It’s one more part of his plan to build a large, loyal client base and make history repeat itself.

Don’t bet against him.