When a Fortune 250 company in the United States acquired our home-grown Canadian company, Pure Energies, in 2014, we knew we’d made it in the solar energy industry.
Pure Energies, a Toronto-based installer of solar roof systems, was bought by NRG Energy, one of the largest electricity producers in the U.S. Our hard work had paid off: We had carefully entered the U.S. market and proved our technology. But selling our company was only the beginning.
Post-acquisition, we set out to build a solar energy consulting company targeting a segment of the market we knew had been neglected. Going solar is mind-bogglingly complex, so we launched EnergyGeeks to help buyers find the right solutions for their homes. Now, we’re once again slowly moving into the U.S. market and we’ve already doubled our revenues since we started in 2016.
Services are exports
We don’t package and ship goods across the border, but that doesn’t mean we don’t export. Rather, we export services. From day one, we wanted to build a digital company that could easily cross borders. This was important to us, as we wanted to help the customer navigate the market smoothly and easily.
Exporting is essential for growth
We are active in the Canadian market and have used our expertise and strategy to expand into the U.S. Being a digital platform has allowed us to move quickly across borders and provide individualized information and services to each customer, based on their geographic location.
Understand your competition
We were well-versed about going into the U.S. market because we expanded our first company south of the border. However, we didn’t fully understand that the marketplace had become way more competitive since we launched our previous company, Pure Energies, nine years earlier. Despite the intense competition, our technology platform has turned out to be more advanced, giving us a unique advantage.
Don’t be too ambitious early on
When it comes to the U.S., it’s a good idea to move slowly and steadily. You should choose one segment of the country—whether a state or a region—master it, and then move on to the next. Don’t try to take on all of America as one market. California is a fantastic solar state and that’s why there are 2,000 solar companies there. For a company like ours, it’s tempting to dive in because California’s consumers know about solar. The state also offers huge incentives and funding and it’s now mandated that every new home must have solar. Sounds like a great place for us, right? Not necessarily. We knew from experience that entering California will mean our marketing costs will triple. Given that, I don’t want to start competing there just yet. If I can master Connecticut and Massachusetts and Illinois, then I’ll look to the west coast. In short, we’re growing wisely, rather than broadly.
Grow your product offerings wisely
Solar solutions are custom products. Some companies jump in and say they’ll offer everything from product consultation to product sales to installation. That’s a mistake. It’s very important that you control one piece in the value chain before you become a vertically integrated company. We’ve seen a lot of groups say they’ll do it all, but then they realize they’re over-extended. Master one piece and then add a little bit more, one piece at a time, to grow at a measured pace. It’s not necessarily slow; we want to move fast, but we’re doing it in a measured and systematic approach.
Focus on the customer
Our decisions are always focused on the customer. If you do that, you’ll be able to continue to grow even if factors around you change. In our case, we offer people multiple ways to go solar. We built our business model around the best option for the customer. There might be more money for us in the short term if we push a particular product, but that’s not why we’re here. When you focus on customer satisfaction, you end up with really happy customers, which means a better business for you in the end. Our consulting service was built to present the best possible option from the customer’s perspective, rather than the best option from a business perspective.
You have to be willing to take a few falls along the way. Nothing’s perfect and just when you think you’ve thought through everything, something unexpected comes up. When it happens, be resilient, tackle it head-on and keep moving forward.