Chris Lord has helped fund and develop hundreds of megawatts of solar projects over the past eight years, but his company is small. I asked Chris to explain how he builds and manages a decentralized group of collaborators to have a big impact on the industry.

Chris, talk to me about the nature of the teams that you put together. It seems like you work on big projects that take a long time to come together. There’s a decentralized nature to the way that you work in teams and teamwork is very important, but there it’s not necessarily one company that’s always doing that work together.

So you’re needing to build partnerships that come together and then disassemble and, and you sort of do that process frequently. How do you think about team building and network building so that you can do really big projects, but at the same time, be able to survive between periods where nothing’s happening?

Chris Lord: That’s a great question. My firm, Capiron, is pretty small. It’s really just me, but I have a little satellite group of people that I’ve known and worked with in different combinations. Sometimes they bring me something. Sometimes I bring them something and so they kind of come together.

But when I look at teams, the most important thing to me is finding somebody who’s compatible both in, you know, the standards of what we’re trying to achieve, the manner in which we work with a customer and the goals that we have for getting to the end of that process. 

For example, you know, it’s one thing to say, okay, I wanna make as much money out of this as possible. But it’s another thing to say, well, wait a second: what we really want to do is get an outstanding result here so that we can hold this up as an example of our work and attract other new customers. And so over the years, I’ve collected a pretty good Rolodex of people in the industry. And sometimes they’ve got the time for the projects, other times they don’t. Sometimes, as I said, they bring me something and I work with them to you know, help make their project a reality. 

And and so I think that when I look at my success over the last eight years being an independent, I would say it’s been a function of having strong relationships and connections with well qualified, hardworking, and very smart people, I guess I would put it that way. 

And you’re right that sometimes there are lulls, but one nice thing about the project nature of most of the work I do is that I can look ahead and say, okay, I know I’m going to have an open spot somewhere in the next, you know, three months or in six months from now, I’m going to need something to replace this.

And so the hardest part is to remember that you have to keep marketing, no matter how busy you get, you’ve got to market. And I’m not always good at remembering that. So there is some lumpiness to life, I guess I would say.

Managing a portfolio of projects over a long timeline

How do you think about timelines for developing these projects? They sound like projects that. Might take a long time to come together. I see that you kind of stack them together and you have a portfolio of projects you’re working on. How do you think about the timing? How do you know when something’s just taking a long time, and when do you say, “I don’t think this thing’s going to happen at all”.

Chris Lord: That’s a tough one. I see projects at all different stages and I like to have different stages just for the variety of the work. And also the pressure, the time pressures will vary, depending on where you are in the project. But on some projects, like the one I just described, that one is going to be a three to four year project minimum and meaning, you know, we’re lucky we might start construction in one or two years and and it’ll take a lot of work to get there.

We’d have to have really good partners to make it happen that way. I’ve been on the very ground floor with other projects as well. Many times it can be shorter, particularly if you’re looking at small commercial projects, you know, you can usually turn those over in less than 24 months. From the very first sales call to the commissioning of the system, and ideally you wanna turn those over in less than a year.