Between the lines: The Culture of a Successful Business

Dawson Public Power District General Manager Gwen Kautz.

Dawson Public Power District General Manager Gwen Kautz.

By Gwen Kautz, General Manager
gkautz at

As power districts go, Dawson PPD is one of the larger ones geographically in Nebraska. We were formed in 1937 and have had various transformations along the way. While we understand we don’t face direct competition, that shouldn’t deter us from working hard to be efficient, effective, reliable and safe. We face the same struggles every business does to thrive.

So, what does Dawson PPD do to make sure we do our best?

1. We continually monitor costs

Despite government claims of “low inflation,” business costs for everything from office supplies to vehicle expenses always seem to be on the rise, so keeping expenses in check is a crucial task for all businesses.

Major costs are reviewed annually or semi-annually, such as materials, travel, business insurance, staffing and vehicle expenses. We review major supply costs regularly and always look for discounts or ways to pool supply purchases with other power districts to save money. Each employee understands that the dollars we spend come from our ratepayers.

Our 2019 budget is a prime example. This year’s budget was reduced by $8.7 million over the previous year. We looked at capital projects for 2019 and shifted priorities again to better control costs. These changes fluctuate from year to year depending on load growth.

Over the past five years, Dawson PPD took on some capital projects that were part of a joint sub-transmission plan based on transmission lines that are interconnected with other power districts. Plans like this make sure reliability stays front and center for everyone and allows districts to re-route power or provide back-up capabilities when needed. The bulk of our commitment has been completed so Dawson PPD will slow down our construction obligations.

2. Focus on Customer Service

One would think that because our customers are more or less captive, customer service would not be high on our list, but it is. Everything we do is aimed at the best way to serve you and we take pride in that.

We understand that we can’t please everyone, but we believe if we act fairly and treat customers and their property with respect, we can satisfy the core business objectives: efficient, effective, reliable and safe power.

3. Fair rates

Rate increases are unpopular. It is our duty to control costs as much as possible before we ask ratepayers to pay more. Like many of you, we have experienced changes in costs based on availability and tariffs. A great deal of our supplies are purchased almost a year in advance based on the start date of a project and lead time for the product. The stability of a company can be based on certain things: its ability to grow, pay debt and implement improvements that benefit operations and service, and a healthy customer service acumen.

4. Adopt continuous processes

A big part of that “continuous process” should move us toward the pursuit of efficient, effective, reliable and safe energy distribution. This requires that we set up necessary processes, protocols and structures across the company and constantly refine them. Settling for “the way it’s always been done” is a sure way of losing touch with customers who want more from you. Once you’re behind that curve, catching up is very difficult.

5. Have a plan

Another sign of a healthy company is its ability to plan ahead for all of the things mentioned before and to adopt technology changes that make us more efficient. Instead of reacting to something, we place a high priority on proactive approaches. A perfect example of this for your own household is that of replacing a vehicle that is showing enough wear and tear such that replacement outweighs the high repair costs.

We are currently working on a five-year plan that will let customers know what to expect in the coming years. That plan will be shared with our customers, so you have time to make your own plans as it relates to growth and expenses.

We encourage our customers to be part of our ever-changing landscape. Directors that run this organization are elected for that purpose. While they have the experience to guide us, it’s important that you have a voice. Not everything we do will be popular, but if our customers can see the big picture it’s easier to understand. These decisions will impact the well-being of Dawson PPD to serve you now and far into the future.


January 2019

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