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On February 8, 2012, Glenna Wiseman, VP of marketing for HelioPower, Aaron Fowles, corporate comm. mgr. for SANYO North America, and Chris J. Hillman, sales manager of the Renewable Energy Department of Allied Business Schools joined EcoOutfitters.net to discuss ways to build your solar business. Check out the conversation here.SolarChat Recap
Successful companies have successful leaders, as discussed in “Lessons for the Solar Industry: It starts at the top”. One trait common among great leaders is how they treat and empower their employees. They know that employees are what make a company great because it is the employees who create great products and satisfied customers.
Building a strong culture
A few keys points can be gleaned by looking at leading companies like Southwest Airlines and other industry leaders.
- Speak clearly and listen to employees
- Develop confidence and instil it in all employees by your management style
- Promote a teamwork attitude by all, no silos, and a level playing field for everyone
- Provide employees with the best tools
- Value all relationships: employees, customers, partners and vendors
- Know what you are best at and focus on it
- Admit to mistakes, fix them and move on
- Embrace change and build the organization to adapt to all conditions
- Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company
Great leaders lead by example and are good role models for the employees that they manage. They listen well and encourage, teach, and empower their people. When people work in an environment where they are trusted, challenged, recognized for good work, well compensated, given growth opportunities, they will be dedicated employees.
Kaizen refers to the practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes.
The concept of the daily compounding of activity and improvement that ultimately adds up to a powerful change in people and a company is what the Japanese call kaizen. It refers to the practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes. When applied to a business, kaizen refers to all activities that improve all functions from the leadership on down. The result is a “humanizing” of the business.
Corporate culture in the solar industry
The solar industry is maturing and this brings heightened competition and the need to “humanize” and to become more conscious of every part of the business. It’s no longer enough to just be part of an industry that prides itself on doing good for the world. To be successful, corporate leaders must be world class in every area of the business.
Mainstream Energy is an example of a solar company that excels in creating a positive corporate culture. The company begins by recruiting recent graduates from the various colleges in the area with the mantra of “Providing a genuine ground-floor opportunity with a conscience.” Lee Johnson, Mainstream’s CEO said that the company has an interesting culture. Growing as fast as it has (from 80 employees in 2007 to 700 today), they’ve got people “who started when the company was a garage operation, and then we have people who’ve come in from different backgrounds, many from big companies.” But the common ground is that they are all committed to bringing solar to the mainstream.
As far as attracting and retaining employees, Johnson said they have to believe in what you’re doing and then they have to see how they’re making an impact, know how they’re performing and what’s the result of their efforts. The company recently rolled out the “Seven Questions” program in which every single person has to be able to answer seven questions: What are they accountable for; Why is what they’re doing important, and so forth. Johnson said that this focus is needed now more than ever in the solar industry. “When you’re growing fast, you have to put special emphasis on corporate culture, especially when you’re aggregating from so many places so fast.”
If you’re able to build that culture, you get a lot of leverage and everything becomes possible.
Mainstream’s two wholly owned subsidiaries, REC Solar and AEE Solar, are based in San Louis Obispo, California. Working in this beautiful city on the beach adds to the overall sunny disposition of the company, which helps to retain their employees. But Johnson noted that leadership and corporate culture is hard work. “It’s the work that really pays off. If you’re able to build that culture, you get a lot of leverage and everything becomes possible.”
Finally, it is sustainability you want in your culture just like your energy sources. This is developed by vision, consistency, communication, action, adaption, accountability incentives, celebration and recognition, and ultimately, commitment by all to have the best products and services. If this culture is constantly enabled and reinforced , you will have a powerful organization that sustains itself and will not be dependent on any one person or product. It evolves, grows, thrives and persists because it is built on a rock solid foundation that can handle any competitive situation and will naturally rise to the top.
In the next article on Lessons for the Solar Industry we’ll discuss customer service and provide examples of companies in which every level of employee is trained in providing superior customer service.
About the AuthorLessons For The Solar Industry: Corporate Culture
Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon, Nike and Southwest Airlines. Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Phil Knight and Herb Kelleher. What lessons we can learn from the great companies and great leaders that apply to the renewable energy industry? It starts at the top with strong leadership.
Establish corporate culture that’s distinguishable, consistent, positive and challenging.
What we can learn from these leaders is to establish corporate culture that’s distinguishable, consistent, positive and challenging. They have all masterminded a convergence and combination of technology, good business processes, and understanding of people. Their priorities are clear and permeate from the top to the bottom.
Steve Jobs was a shining example of a leader. His genius was not just that Apple makes good products. He got people to understand and buy into what Apple believes and stands for. It’s not an accident that most of Apple’s ads don’t talk about how good their products are, but more about what you can do with them and how they make you feel. Their customer loyalty is remarkable and people stand in line to buy their products and pay more for them.
Great companies always have great leaders. And these leaders have several traits in common. First they are there to lead and motivate employees, and create great experiences for customers. When they do that, profits and growth follow and opportunities appear. Customers hear about them and want to do business with them because they keep their eye on the ball and not on the scoreboard first. Successful leaders make decisions based on the long term, but they know that a focus on today will enable them to meet the goals of tomorrow.
Leadership in the Solar Industry
Competition in the solar industry, or any renewable energy business, is at an all-time high. It makes environmental, financial, and social sense for the industry to thrive, become strong, and to improve to the point where solar is affordable and companies are profitable. At a time when prices are dropping, demand is increasing, and politics are prevailing, it is imperative that good leaders rise to the top and create great companies in this industry.
Danny Kennedy, President and one of the founders of the very successful residential solar company Sungevity, based in Oakland, California, said that for him it’s about “keeping things simple for the customer, giving them a great customer experience and stressing the intangibles as well as the financial parts of the products they provide.”
Using Apple’s culture and customer experience as a model, he developed a customer experience that is easy to understand and install, affordable, and “something that makes people feel good about themselves and how they are helping the environment and energy crisis”. Based on results to date, he is succeeding; as Sungevity just recently doubled its office space in Jack London Square in Oakland, has strong brand recognition and Danny Kennedy is a leading industry spokesperson.
As with the successful businesses mentioned here, it all begins with leadership. But our models of success also exhibit a shared culture, empowered employees and top-notch training. We’ll cover these keys to success in subsequent articles that will focus on lessons learned and how they can be applied to the solar industry.
About the AuthorLessons for the Solar Industry: It Starts at The Top
We’ve compiled some helpful information and links for your reference. Learn more about your solar career with the data provided below.
North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)
“Designed to raise industry standards and promote consumer confidence, NABCEP offers certification and certificate programs to renewable energy professionals throughout North America.”
Types of NABCEP Solar Certifications Available:
- Entry Level – Take Intro PV Course from accredited School approved by NABCEP
- Certified PV Installer – Two Installs equaling 1KW plus 40 hour course based on NABCEP Task Analysis
- PV Technical Sales
- View the following links for more info.
- Candidate Information Handbook for Computer Based Certification Exams
- Successfully Complete a NABCEPPV Technical Sales Applicatio
- Every 3 years
- 3 Qualifying PV systems over 3 years
- 6 hours on latest NEC Code, 6hours on Installation and Technology, 6 hours of additional study (technical or non)
- Entry Level – Taken any time at Prometrics Testing after completing course
- Certified PV Installer – January 13, 2012: Application deadline for the March 24, 2012 exam
- PV Technical Salesperson – November 14, 2011: Application deadline for the January 21 – February 4, 2012 PV Technical Sales Exam
- Recertification – Test not required; application plus proof of Continuing Education and fee
How to Apply:
- http://www.nabcep.org/home/ce-conference - March 30 2012 Conference
Still have questions? Please call Chris Hillman at (800) 732-7410.Read More >>Online Solar Training, NABCEP Certification and Resources – Everything You Need to Know!
For those of you who want to either start a new solar career or are looking to advance an existing one, online solar courses are the way to go. Plus, Allied Schools offers additional resources to help you reach your goals. It’s a win-win for your future!
Why Online Solar Courses?
- Self Paced – Study at a pace that works for you. You are not bound by a set schedule.
- Convenient – You set the schedule of your studies. Learn day or night, it’s up to you!
- Easy to Navigate – You can easily complete your assignments or take a quick right at your fingertips.
- Cost Effective – You don’t have to pay extra for gas, parking or even a babysitter. You pay a reasonable fee for your course.
Why Allied Schools?Allied Schools offers everything you need to build a solid foundation of knowledge and prepare for your solar career. When taking your course, there are live tutors available to assist with your questions and help keep you on task. Some of the courses also prepare you to sit for a certification exam – a must when you want to stand out in your career! Allied’s online job portal can help point you in the right direction when you finish your course. All of this is included with your course, which is reasonably priced to fit your budget!
Want to get to know Allied even more? Read this article written by Allied’s Green Department Manager, Chris Hillman.
Did you know that Allied partners with many major PV companies? Yes! They send their employees to train at various levels. And did you also know that there are corporate B2B programs available?
Call (800) 732-7410 today to learn more.Find out firsthand how online solar courses can lead to a new and exciting future!
Photo credit: Solar Energy Read More >>Online Solar Courses – The Best Way to Advance Your Solar Career!
Are you ready for a new opportunity? Is becoming a solar salesperson something that you’ve considered? With the U.S. having the third largest solar market in the world, behind Germany and Italy (SolarBuzz), now’s the time to consider a solar career. Apply your sales experience to a growing and evolving market!
Take the Steps to Prepare for Your Solar Sales Career!
- Make a commitment to learn everything you can to prepare for a smooth transition into a solar career, such as reading articles and books , and taking solar courses
- Build a strong knowledge base – learn essential terminology, technology, government incentives, financial programs, and how to analyze customer bills
- Redo your resume and make it “green” by using keywords, and adding training and certifications when appropriate
- Learn who the best companies are and what they are looking for in an employee – become that “ideal” candidate!
- Network with as many people as you can – build relationships and find that hidden job market
- Talk to successful salespeople (use Linkedin) and get tips from them on how they started and what they do to be successful
- Become a confident and proactive interviewer – demonstrate that you are a winner, producer and valuable employee!
- Realize that you might have to start in an entry-level position in order to realize your career goals
- Know your long-term goals and how to reach them!
- Regularly use YouTube, Facebook, and green-related websites to keep up to date on your industry
- Commit to daily improvement – know what you need to do to become an outstanding employee!
- Remember that finding the right job is a process – search for people who look at more than just a resume as an indicator of success
- Stress what makes you unique and better than the average person looking for work
- Study the NABCEP Sales Task analysis – this should be your ultimate goal to strive for skill-wise in a few years
- Consider yourself part of the Industry, and think and act accordingly!
If you are thinking about a career change this year, the future of the solar can be your shining star. Those having knowledge and experience in any area of solar energy can easily reconstruct their resume and expand their options for employment in this growing field.
We are at the forefront of a booming industry and with the solar energy transition projected to create around 350,000 new jobs by the end of this year, the biggest problem has been finding workers to meet the increasing demand.
Those who do gather the information and experience they need to take advantage of this burgeoning industry will be well-paid and highly regarded. This solar energy revolution could be America's best hope for the future of our labor force. Let's take a look at some of the top jobs in the solar energy industry.
1. Urban Planner.
Careers in this field are in huge demand. The skill set of urban planners who conduct contingency planning are badly needed in our pursuit to reduce our carbon footprint. Positions in Urban Planning are expected to rise by over 15% over the next 5+ years.
2. Solar Operations Engineer.
Engineers in this position are faced with the task of designing new solar systems, then supervising and inspecting the structures during construction, which makes them the architects of the entire facility operation. They are also involved in monitoring and testing the correlation between old and new solar energy facilities.
3. Environmental Engineer.
This position has some pretty big shoes to fill. The objective of these engineers is to prevent further deterioration of our planet by limiting soil erosion, global warming, acid rain and ozone depletion. The next 7 or so years should show employment opportunities in this field rise by as much as 25%.
4. Solar Lab Technician.
Companies are seeking technicians with design, production, installation and testing skills involved with solar-energy technologies. With the increase of homes and commercial buildings investing in solar energy, so increases the need to find skilled professionals with the knowledge to get the job done.
5. Solar Power Installer.
This is a relatively high-paying position within the solar energy spectrum of jobs and the opportunities abound. If you have a background in construction, you may want to look into some of these positions to install solar-thermal water heaters and solar panels on rooftops.
6. Wind Turbine Fabricator.
Because wind is the leading source of alternate energy, these wind turbines are in higher demand than ever. And because they are garnering considerable financial support and tax rebates, wind farms are appearing everywhere. These jobs offer a great opportunity.
7. Energy Efficiency Builder.
Our existing buildings are one of the greatest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, making them energy "guzzlers." If you're a skilled engineer, architect or retrofitter, your skills are in high demand to not only convert existing structures but also new buildings that are energy efficient.
8. Sustainability Systems Developer.
In order to design, build and maintain the network required to support solar energy sources such as smart energy grids and wind farms, software developers and engineers are in high demand. This is a particularly golden opportunity for those with experience in web 2.0 applications and open source programming.
9. Solar Hot Water Installer.
With a surge in the number of homeowners and business owners purchasing solar heating systems, the demand for professionals in this area is escalating with it, in both residential and commercial buildings. As the technological advances in this area escalate, so does the number of people required to fill these positions.
Labels: emerging technologiesRead More >>9 Popular Solar Energy Jobs