Article written by Mark Becker for Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today, July 2016.
Unfortunately, the subject matter of these newspaper articles doesn’t appear out of thin air. This month, while considering ideas, I tapped into the most available resources present at the moment; my two teenage children. My daughter’s response was immediate and specific: “Talk about the basics, you’re always talking about science stuff.” (She’s a much more creative writer than me by the way). My son’s response was a more typical teenage one: “Tell ‘em about solar” (as he barely looked up from his iPhone). Kids on summer vacation prefer to avoid topics that remind them too much of school. Oh, the by-gone days of having 8 weeks free from all responsibility! Thanks to their contributions, I’ll discuss two of my favorite topics, business and solar.
Oftentimes I’m solicited for business advice. I may not be the best person to provide this advice, but I’m always happy to share the business principles which have worked for GoSimpleSolar. The most simplistic tenant to follow, which I learned from my time spent as a U.S. Marine Corps Officer: Take “ownership” of your responsibilities. Expect “ownership” from those in your charge in return. The Marine Corps serves our nation, but individual marines serve each other in order to complete the Marine Corps mission. Hence, Marines are each other’s “customers.” My customers on the ground (the infantry) rightfully had a defined expectation of quality and accuracy of delivery of ordnance when supported by my AH-1W Cobra gunship squadron. The infantry defined a need, we fulfilled it. Military metaphors are often overused in business, but they actually can have useful meaning as long as one differentiates between the life and death aspects of the two. “On time, On target” was the gold standard for munitions delivery; loosely interpreted, it’s also a great goal to achieve when delivering goods and services in the world of business. In the military, as in business, a “customer” should have a high degree of confidence that the “service provider” will deliver a product with precision and reliability when the time and place (and details) are well defined.
Business 101: Business should never be considered fleeting; A business should be modeled to be able remain in business in order to serve its customers for the long term. With this in mind, I provide the following advice for consumers and businesspersons alike.
A good “Business Model” identifies a market need, typically, a problem that needs to be solved. In the solar business, the identified problem is obvious; homeowners and business owners have no choice in electricity provider: high cost “rental” of their electricity is the only option they previously had before solar PV.
Targeting and marketing to the proper demographic who desire resolution to the identified problem is critical. In the contracting industry, there are consumers who rightfully expect (yet unfortunately are oftentimes short-changed) reliability in product and workmanship, excellent communication, strong product and workmanship warranties and firm pricing. If you are buying or selling a service, a savvy consumer will consider a service providers differentiated offerings while also considering price. Products matter. The people who interact and perform the work matter. Trying to sell a service as a commodity has historically proven to be a short-term success story, with negative ramifications to the consumer. Plan on supporting your customer for the long-term.
Summary items critical to long-term success: Find like-minded people to help execute your business plan. Technology, for technology sake, is always a bad idea. A simple and precise business plan that couples your unique offerings with your selected customer base will serve your customers and your business best for the long-term. You will make mistakes: It’s how you recover from those mistakes (make them right) that will leave a very positive impression on your customers.
Independence Day in the Bay Area: The Danville 4th Of July parade is reportedly the largest Independence Day parade in the Bay Area. If you have yet to see it, this parade is an amazing spectacle. Granted, there is always going to be some commercialization of any holiday, but this parade does a great job of featuring local Veteran’s Groups, charities, community service groups and businesses who “get with the theme” and create parade entries or “floats” that celebrate our nation’s Independence. We’ll be participating with our retired Army combat veteran 5-ton truck, “Bio-Fuel Bertha.” We’re also again sponsoring the “NorCal Beech Boys” flying team who will pay respects to our great nation’s Independence and our Veterans with multiple flyovers. We hope to see you there!
Mark Becker is the President and business owner of GoSimpleSolar, by Semper Fidelis Construction Inc, CSLB 948715. GoSimpleSolar is one of the very few solar PV installers utilizing both licensed roofers and licensed electricians for installation work, project managed by a solar PV NABCEP professional. For more information visit www.GoSimpleSolar.com.