The FolSon Group’s Tina Larsson describes how a greener operations mindset an mean big economic savings for commercial buildings.
June 4, 2014
JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good. We’re so excited to have with us today Tina Larsson. She’s the CEO of the FolSon Group. Welcome to Green is Good, Tina. TINA LARSSON: Hi. How are you? JOHN SHEGERIAN: Great. Welcome and thank you for coming on today. Your business is very fascinating and I want you to explain to our listeners what you do but before we do that, Tina, your background is also very, very fascinating. Please share the Tina Larsson story. How did you even get here? What is your day job really and how did you come up with the great idea of creating the FolSon Group? TINA LARSSON: Thank you, John. I have 17 years of Wall Street experience. I’m a financial analyst by profession. I have been doing that for many, many years and in doing that, we own our own co-op and we said if our co-op is increasing maintenance every single year, then we need to analyze that and that’s kind of how the whole thing came about so three years ago, our maintenance price had increased since 55% since we bought our apartment so we decided we needed to take a closer look and how did we do that? We needed to get involved with the board so my husband became a member of a board and I was then elected, conveniently, to be on a finance committee and my husband’s background is also in finance. He has over 20 years, 25 years I think, in finance and one thing led to another and before we knew it, looking at our own building, we had saved 400 and we were actually very surprised. We did not think that this was going to be even possible. We had saved the building $400,000. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. TINA LARSSON: So, a year ago, when we had saved $400,000, we told people. Of course, that was kind of exciting, right? We told people our findings and they jokingly said, ‘You should come and be on the board of my building.’ As we know, that can’t be because we can’t be on the board of other buildings but that was like a year ago so a year ago, we started thinking about how do we make this happen and we tried to figure that out. We couldn’t really figure it out at first but then speaking to people in the industry and speaking to industry associations, we were under the impression that there was a need for our services so earlier this year, we formed a company and now we provide our services. It’s complete business audits for co-ops and condos and we do that on a consulting basis. We couldn’t be on the board so we are consultants and we don’t charge a fee. We share their savings. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Okay so let’s go back. The name of the company that you formed earlier this year is called The FolSon Group. TINA LARSSON: That’s correct. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And I’m online right now and if our listeners have their laptop or iPad or other tablet in front of them and want to follow along as we talk today with Tina Larsson, who’s the Founder and CEO of the FolSon Group, you can go to www.thefolsongroup.com. I’m on your site right now so now, let’s explain to our audience what you do at the FolSon Group. TINA LARSSON: We help co-ops and condos, the managing agents or the managers of buildings. We help them reduce their cost by smarter spending or savings. We do all aspects of the building so it’s our understanding that there are other companies doing pockets of what we do so there are, for instance, utility auditors. They look at the utilities. We look at every single aspect of the operation. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Let’s give our audience an example. You said utilities is one so the energy in the building is one. What are some of the other segments that you’re examining when you go in to do a building audit? TINA LARSSON: We would look at every single vendor so for instance, there are a few phone lines in a building in most cases, depending on the size and the structure of course, and there’s one phone line for each elevator, for instance. There’s a chance that those phone lines are not bundled or that they are not actually set up on one bill as opposed to many different bills so very often, they are not paying the lowest rate. That’s a very small saving. In our building, it was $2,800 a year, not a big savings but on five phone lines, it’s substantial. JOHN SHEGERIAN: It’s a lot. Right, right, right. TINA LARSSON: So that’s a very small line item and that doesn’t add up to a lot of money but if you go through every single vendor, then it adds up. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Such as also, how about water? Is water another one? TINA LARSSON: Water is another one. Actually, depending on when the building was built, many buildings still have five or three gallon tanks for their toilets and there are great reductions to be had when it comes to that. We are in New York. In New York, there are subsidies for buying new toilets and actually, that’s what I want to get back to. The largest savings to be had in any building, in our opinion, especially for the older buildings, is to green the buildings. Greening buildings, whether that comes through your electric, your water, or your heating system, that’s where the bulk of the money and bulk of the savings are to be had. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow so coming in as the outside auditor specialists, the FolSon Group could then, after you audit everything, and do an ROI and everything, then you can then make a proposal to green the building. TINA LARSSON: That’s correct so one of the places where you can green a building is that you can provide– We don’t do it ourselves. We have vendors that we work with so improving or red refitting all of your electric, all of your light fixtures, provides tremendous savings. First of all, there are Nyserda incentives, green incentives, there’s subsidies and then when it comes to the water, there’s some other subsidies so there’s subsidies for implementing these programs. Once they’re installed, they provide immediate savings and typically is less than a four year payback period for any installation of these greening or however you want to call it. You and I are saying greening and a lot of people are saying greening but it’s really just making the building more efficient. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Yeah, good sustainability decisions. Let’s go back so this is so interesting. You have a financial background so obviously you understand numbers and investments and so this ties back to what you’re really good at so you came up with this as a form of function and need in your own building and nobody else has created this kind of service in the city of New York or other cities or why is your service then different than others? TINA LARSSON: It is our understanding that nobody else is doing this, yes, and it’s very surprising to us and why our service is different is because we are doing all aspects of the entire building. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Not just one. TINA LARSSON: Yes, so the companies that improve the fuel use in the building, they do that specific thing and we do the entire building. That’s just a big difference and I don’t know of anybody who would look at something as little as five phone lines. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So you said your own building that you and your husband live in, you saved them $400,000 annually? TINA LARSSON: No, last year, we had saved for the first two years with the board $400,000. Today, year number three, we have saved $728,000. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Oh my gosh! TINA LARSSON: Yes. The yearly cash flow in our building has increased, as of today, by $250,000 per year. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, that’s a lot of money. That’s 20,000 a month back in your cash flow. That’s incredible! So it’s your vision to take this to the other co-ops and condos in the greater New York area. TINA LARSSON: That’s correct. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So why only co-ops and condos? Explain your vision there. Is there a reason to limit it to that? Why not office buildings also? Explain your vision on co-ops and condos and that target. TINA LARSSON: We have focused on residential and the reason for that, office buildings or rental buildings, for that matter, they have one interest party so the company that owns the building runs the building. There’s one interested party. If they are the investors themselves, we are just assuming, we might be wrong, that they’re running it as the owners and they want the profits so there’s one goal and one interested party. In co-ops and condos, there are three interested parties. There are the owners. There’s the board and then there’s the managing agent so with three interested parties in any organization, no matter what the organization, whether it’s the government, it’s very possible that we would be able to help rental buildings, office buildings as well but we think that their mode is different and their interest is different so therefore, we think that co-ops and condos are most likely to benefit the most from our expertise. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Interesting so what you’re really doing, as you well point out, is you’re consolidating the interests of the building getting everybody on the same page and therefore saving them money then. TINA LARSSON: That’s correct. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners out there that just joined us, we’ve got Tina Larsson on. She’s the CEO of the FolSon Group. If you want to learn more about the FolSon Group and all the great jobs they’re doing in terms of greening and making our co-ops and condos in New York City more sustainable, go to www.thefolsongroup.com. Tina, you mentioned earlier the toilets issue, how you can green a building and that’s one of the improvements. Share with our listeners what are some of the other items that can be done in their building, that you can do with your organization and the vendors that you have working with you to make green improvements to make their co-op or condo more sustainable. TINA LARSSON: Upgrading your light fixtures in your public areas. Very often, you walk down to the basement or you walk to your laundry room and the light is on 24 hours a day. You bring in one of the light fixture specialists and they will evaluate your entire building and they will tell you how much you can save by replacing the current light fixtures. There’s, of course, an upfront cost for this. Typically, the payback period for the savings that you have, and it’s immediate savings, you can start this project and within six weeks, it could be done so six weeks later, you can have a lower electric bill. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You being a financial expert, you’re able then to before they even do one thing in terms of the upfront cost, explain to them the proposition and the ROI and the ROI, the Return on Investment, is always much greater than the original investment. TINA LARSSON: Yes, absolutely. Within four years, you should have your money back, your initial cost back, and then everything after that is pure savings and we have actually seen where the estimate was a four year payback period but you’ve really covered your cost in two years. This is with the Con Edison Incentives and Nyserda Incentives, etcetera. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What’s another thing besides toilets and lights? Give us one more thing. TINA LARSSON: Okay, your heating system. There’s actually a new law in New York City where you have to get off oil. You can’t use oil anymore and there’s a place out so right now, I think that the year 2022 is the last year that you can use oil number six as your heating source so you have to convert to a better alternative, whether that’s natural gas, whether that’s biofuels, whether that’s solar, whether that’s anything else but oil number six. Oil number six is the bad oil and that’s the one that provides most pollution. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Right, right so Tina, we’re down to about four minutes. Explain how this works. Do you know approximately how many co-ops and condos there are in the greater New York area? TINA LARSSON: I believe that there are 6,000 buildings. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Okay so there’s 6,000 buildings that should be using your great services that when you explain to them and they hear you Green is Good, how you’re saving $250,000 for your building that you originally greened and made more sustainable, why would they ever say no and how are you marketing to these buildings now and to these boards? Because to me, this seems like an amazing and easy sale for your great services, for the FolSon Group. TINA LARSSON: Yeah, I mean they should all hire us because there’s no downside. If they don’t save anything, we don’t charge anything so there’s no reason for them not to hire us. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Let’s get to that. That’s a fascinating proposition. How is The FolSon Group compensate? Because you said you don’t charge anything unless they save money. Explain your compensation. TINA LARSSON: We charge nothing until they save. We’ll take a look at the building. We will make proposals and then proposal by proposal, we’ll help them implement these proposals and once they save, we share those savings. We share those savings for two years so year number three, the savings they keep themselves. We do not share after two years. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So for all the boards out there, the co-op and condo boards in the greater New York region, hiring The FolSon Group so audit their building and show them the ROI on all the changes that you’d like to make is a risk free proposition. TINA LARSSON: That’s correct. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, I don’t know. To me, that is just one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard in terms of business opportunities, business propositions, and for all our listeners here on Clear Channel, on the iHeart Radio network and the greater New York area, please share this information with your board. We’re down to two minutes. Talk a little bit about how you’re going to market this beyond Green is Good and all the great work you’re doing and already the successful proposition that you and your husband have from your own building. How are you going to go about marketing this and what’s your future with the FolSon Group and what’s your plan? TINA LARSSON: Well, right now, we have just been trying to word of mouth kind of reaching out to people so we met someone who met someone who had to introduce us to Solar One. We’re going to be on an experts panel with Solar One and the community board number six tomorrow speaking together with Solar One, who is a new sort of outreach company and we will be speaking on how to green or introduction to green for co-ops and condos for community board number six. That’s one way. We have been invited to a few different events where we’ll be speaking and for now, we haven’t really thought of a big marketing plan but that will probably come eventually, when we have a few buildings. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And if people go to your website, there’s your phone number and your email address there so they can contact you, right? TINA LARSSON: Absolutely. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Good, and for our listeners out there who want to green their buildings and should green their buildings or want to get your board involved, go to www.thefolsongroup.com. Tina Larsson, you have an amazing business proposition and I wish you continued success. I want to have you back on to talk about all the buildings you’re greening in New York as your business evolves so thank you, Tina, for making our co-ops and condos more sustainable in New York City and a better place to live. You are truly living proof that green is good. TINA LARSSON: Thank you, John.