We recently installed a chat feature on HeatSpring so that we could better assist visitors and customers with any questions they may have. Last week, I had a great conversation with a fellow from New Jersey who was looking to start a new company installing solar. He asked me if he could install solar if he took our training. I respond, “Yes, absolutely!” and forward him to an article I wrote on the subject: With this Training, Can I Install Solar? We then began a longer 30 minute conversation that touched on everything from design, branding, sales to what specifically he needs to do to get his new venture going. Based on this conversation I assembled a checklist that every solar startup can run through to help them with their market entry strategy. This is by no means a complete list, but its getting there. If you’re looking for direction and don’t know where to start. This will help.

Remember first things first. First, we’ll discuss getting going, positioning and business strategy, next sales and marketing and last design and installation.

A couple principles I adhere to are, small businesses are all about cash and momentum. Second, be patient about growth but not about profitability. Read past the break for full details and join HeatSpring on facebook to keep the most up to date on free courses, events, tips, resources and news. If you’re a clean energy professional and looking to connect with other solar professionals to collaborate on jobs or best practices, request to join HeatSpring’s linkedin group for Clean Energy Professionals

Business Strategy

  • Where are you going to be in the supply chain? What skills do you have on your team, what do you need to add, which companies do you need to partner with? Can’t answer this question? Take our free course, “How to Make Money in Renewable Energy” to get a sense for the skills need to complete a solar project.
  • Which state are you in? Make list of all solar incentives. If you don’t understand Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), attend our free course on the subject “Understanding SRECs”
  • Who are other solar contractor in your area? You can use FindSolar.com to do quick market research
  • Do you understand what you’ll need to pull a solar permit and do you have access to the needed licenses? If not, get them. See a review of Solar Certifications Licenses and Permits.
  • Does your state have an ‘eligible installer’ list that you must get in before apply for incentives. New York and Pennsylvania have an application process that all installers must go through to get state incentives.  Start your search by calling your states department of energy, department of environment or clean energy center. Whichever department is responsible for distributing the incentives will be able to help you.

Sales and Marketing

  • Who is your customer? Write down the specifics of their persona and be very specific, down to name, age, where they live and their interests. The better you know your customer, the easier it will be to find them and to sell to them.
  • Where are the top 5 places you can find your target customer. For example, what stores do they go? Do they have kids? Do they go to conferences, concerts or any events?
  • Have you already had interest from a potential customer? If yes, see the next bullet. If not, how are you going to land your first project? See the list you created in the above bullet to get ideas for where your customers are.
  • Do you understand how to quality a customer and perform a site visit? If not, you can sign up instantly for the free course “How to Make Money in Renewable Energy” and watch the Solar PV technology overview in section 1 to understand how to design a system and qualify a potential customer.
  • Are you located in a state where SRECs are the mechanism the state government uses to incentive solar pv? Do you know how to communicate them to consumers and how they impact project economics? If you don’t know, go to DSIRE and find out. If yes, become very familiar with SRECs and how they work.
  • Do you plan on creating a video of your first installation in order increase your credibility and create a referral business? Hint, your answer should be yes.

Design and Installation

  • Once you get your first job, who is going to pull your permits? Do you have relationships with the needed general contractors and electricians to install the project? Call the local fire department, and building office in the town where the installation is going to be and ask “What do I need to supply to pull a solar permit?”
  • Have you found a distributor to work with to supply product? Will the distributor provide design support or just supply product?
  • If you will perform design work, do you understand how to design solar? Are you familiar with NEC Article 609 on solar code?
  • Do you have a structural engineer and professional engineer relationship that will be used for structural assessments and stamping of 3 line diagram needed to pull a permit?
  • Are you familiar with the interconnection process? If not, search “solar interconnection process + the name of your utility” in google and learn more.

This list is not complete and is targeted more at smaller projects in the built environment so it’s not dealing with zoning, tax equity and the interconnection issues that a larger solar plant does, it will provide any new solar start up a solid framework for getting their business going.