As the solar industry continues to boom, it’s easy to see that a rising tide lifts all boats. Solar companies virtually everywhere are growing at rapidly increasing rates. It’s not uncommon to hear about long installation timelines and even some companies turning down business. In these exciting and busy times, it’s important to remember that being busy doesn’t always equate to being productive nor profitable. Sustainable growth should go hand-in-hand with building repeatable, clear processes. 

In this short chat, HeatSpring instructor Keith Cronin discusses dialing in the solar development process to build a successful business with happy customers, staff, and partners. If you’re interested in learning more about these topics, be sure to tune into Keith’s upcoming live workshop, Mapping the Dynamic Solar Development Process. It’s eligible for 1 NABCEP CEU.

Brit: What would you say are the differences between a company that’s really got a good dialed in development process versus one that doesn’t? How do they look different? How can somebody move to the really dialed in, seamless process? 

Keith: If you take the idea of the entrepreneur, let’s just say somebody’s working at a solar company and they think, I know what my boss is doing. I can do it better. Then they start their own company. 

Maybe they’re really good at engineering or installations or finance or whatever the aspect is of the value chain in the solar  industry. And they go out and they hang their shingle and they just get started.

Let’s just take an installer. Somebody that’s maybe an electrician and they have their contractor’s license and then they go get their company name. Then they just go start. They might be really good at installations. They would go out and do an installation and then say they have one person that would be starting to work with them.

And quite often I’d ask them the basic question – can you leave that person on the job or the team on the job and then you go and do something else? And invariably that’s what happens. 

The person that started their business, if they’re really good at installations, they become a victim of their own success, where the job gets done really well. The client’s satisfied. They say, “you did a really good job on our home. We have a couple referrals. I have a neighbor, a coworker, a family member.”  All of a sudden, you have to go out and do a site evaluation and look at their electric bill to see if solar’s suitable for their application.

Then what happens is the small business owner, let’s say like yourself, has hung their shingle up. Now they need to make sure that those people that are doing installations really know what to do and have a system and process to make it very repeatable. 

If you take that basic idea, you can apply it to residential, commercial, and utility scale. Getting the right people that understand their role and function in a company to be able to have something that’s repeatable and consistent, and also a way to check-in with the company when things are completed.

Being in the business for a couple of decades, I can tell you the ones that have a development plan do incredibly well. They can predict in advance, whether they’re going to make money – from origination when a project is first sold or figuring out purchasing and all the other aspects of the process that happens after a sale is made.

Brit: For companies that maybe don’t have a process dialed in, you’re teaching a short course. That is going to be happening live. It’s going to be about one to two hours depending on the questions, but could you walk folks through the structure you’ll have for that class and what you’re going to go through.

Keith: What I’ve realized in doing development for a very long time is I always used to use an Excel spreadsheet. They’re great, but Excel spreadsheets aren’t very shareable. We could email it to each other. Then with the advent of Google Sheets, we now have a really dynamic way to share tasks and activities.

If you think about a day in the life whether you’re doing residential, commercial, or utility scale, you’re going to get a template that is completely customizable and changeable. For the commercial & utility scale, we have phases in a project from origination through the permitting process through a lot of legal things.

You’ll basically have a Gantt chart, which is essentially a timeline. This is a little bit different because it’s a timeline with people and also dollar amounts allocated to those people – whether internally or externally. 

What are the processes that they’re going to do? What is that product? What is the outcome that they’re going to deliver? So this basic concept is to really cohesively get your team working together.

Essentially every step of the process allows people to communicate, not just internally, but also with their clients. If you have a timeline, you have these expectations set. Everybody in the company’s going to know what their role is, what their function is, the time allocated to that, so that you can manage the expectations.

If you do this, you’re going to make more money. You’re going to have more satisfied clients. You’re going to have more satisfied team members. Invariably, that’s how you grow a company where everybody appreciates what everybody does, and we can know how long things take.

To me, that’s really what’s been missing in the industry.

You can make a baseline template – whether it’s residential, commercial, industrial, utility scale – so you have a baseline to work from. 

Brit: That sounds like it’s going to be a really useful class. Folks will walk out of there with a tool that they can use immediately, knowledge on how to customize it, and get to work with a group who’s going to ask questions in front of each other so that everyone can learn from each other.  This course sounds like an awesome opportunity for anybody who really wants to dial in their process.

Keith: It’s for multiple different buckets of people. If you’re a business owner and you want to grow and scale your business, this is a template. Maybe you’re working at a company and you’re in a different role – whether you’re doing installations, engineering, finance, or procurement. 

To me, by having this tool at your fingertips, you’re going to be able to – even if you’re doing it really well – it’ll give you some insights. We’re going to go through a case study or two or three. You’ll get a document when you sign up. I broke down some examples for residential, commercial, and utility scale. And I will walk us through that. It’s about a 10-page document. It’s easy to read. It flows really nicely. So again, whether you’re doing residential, commercial, utility scale, there’s going to be something in there for everybody.

Brit: Great. Awesome. This course sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing, Keith. 

Keith: Thank you very much.