Alex Williams, Clint Williams, and Dave Madrid Of Solar Energy Partners On How To Take Your Company From Good To Great
Keep your focus, and work every day to be the best that you can be for yourself and your leaders.
As part of my series about “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Solar Energy Partners founders, Alex Williams, Clint Williams, and Dave Madrid.
With 20 years of solar experience, Solar Energy Partners was founded by Alex and Clint Williams, and Dave Madrid in the spring of 2017. SEP’s mission is to bring clean energy, abundant savings, and peace of mind to every single homeowner in the United States (starting with California). As the solar revolution progresses this century, we aim to lead in spreading this renewable resource across the world.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started in direct sales right out of high school; eventually, I was recruited into smart home technology with Vivint, working with customers in the direct to home model. I learned about home improvement sales. I created an Airbnb direct sales program which shifted into saving super hosts money by switching to solar: this started as a test project. I was the first ever to do it, and it was a tremendous success. Working in solar has been my focus ever since. At this point, I have over 27 years of direct sales experience. — Dave Madrid
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Every major transition has been difficult, especially learning a new industry like solar. Understanding the process of selling a conceptual item, where the value is only realized down the road is something that really built grit for me as an individual. SEP has a vision of the bigger picture. We believe it’s paramount to have goals and drive to make sure we are selling a tangible vision. The drive we get stems from our family and making sure we don’t take the benefits of living for granted. — Alex Williams
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
My takeaway at this point is simple: Gauge your guidance — take good advice when you can. That just means you’ll thank yourself down the road for listening to those who have experienced more than you have (particularly in your industry, when it comes to business). There’s a tremendous value in wisdom. Experience is intrinsically more valuable than money itself- after all money is just a concept, and we are all products of experience. Most of the mistakes are based on the fact of not listening to a positive voice and intuition. — Clint Williams
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company was formed on a declaration: “Our mission is to provide the best customer and sales representative experience in the solar industry”. We built this enterprise with SEP knowing the nightmares of solar, with hopes of changing the ecosystem. When anyone works with us, we want to mitigate those headaches and hassles of the past and offer something completely different. It all comes down to customer service, and that’s what makes us so distinct. It was our experience that brought this concept to fruition and helps us execute our vision, which is simple: to be the very best. That being said, that’s not to say that there are never issues, but we’ve had multitudes of experiences where we’ve attacked any problems head-on and wrapped it up for customers behind the scenes, so the complications never reared their ugly heads. Where most companies are a freefall, we are effectively the mattress that catches the customer when they take the leap to solar. — Alex Williams
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
As previously mentioned, know your purpose- that’s to say “why” you’re doing something, for business and personal reasons. Collaborate and be open to a partnership when necessary- it’s all about the endgame. Keep your focus, and work every day to be the best that you can be for yourself and your leaders. — Clint Williams
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My first direct sales manager, Steve Croll, has retrospectively become a long-time friend. He taught me everything about the foundational aspects of the business, “what one can do, another can do”. Steve taught me to dream big and believe in the impossible- all of these things really showed me how to succeed and be great in business. I was nineteen years old: filled with doubt and unorganized goals. I’ll never forget when Steve pulled me aside and told me, “The reality of an extraordinary achievement can only be accomplished if you dare to dream it.”, that really stuck with me- in that same conversation, he was the first person to tell me that I had leadership potential; I’ll never forget that, and I am eternally grateful for his guidance. — Dave Madrid
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
A good company executes the needs of the consumer on a fundamental basis, where a great company exceeds expectations, going above and beyond. I feel that a company demonstrates greatness when its leadership truly believes in the movement- when you can inspire passion in your team. It’s one thing to share a vision, but it’s another thing when the leadership articulates the vision day in and day out. That’s when you really achieve greatness, in my opinion, when you find the people in your organization are truly living the vision, discovering the best versions of themselves. — Clint Williams
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- My first recommendation would be with recruiting the right people. Without the right people in your organization; people that are driven, willing to learn; willing to work, the company can never fully realize its potential.
- The focus of the organization and having a purpose is extremely important. One has to ask “Are you making a difference?” For instance, our goal with SEP is to serve, not sell, we’re ultimately focused on bettering the lives of the people we work with and the communities we work within. This ties into the third point.
- Customer service- pretty self-explanatory, but if your organization isn’t focused on doing excellent business, there can never be any hope for longevity. If you look at Amazon, they don’t always get it right, but as far as customer service goes, they tend to go the extra mile for their clientele. There’s a reason why they dominate the online retail sector.
- Next recommendation would be personal and professional development. Any great company should offer some level of scholarship to improve the skills of those working in the organization. If the only takeaway is money, the fruits of the labor aren’t that fulfilling. It comes back to the “teach a person to fish” proverb. Good companies exist as a means to an end for the people that work there, great companies provide more than a way to put food on the table, which leads to the fifth and last point: culture.
- Lastly, any truly great company has a rock-solid internal culture that breeds positivity and enables the workforce to feel like it’s more than a “job”, which is exactly what it should be. With a positive culture in an organization, your people make lifelong connections; they find a greater purpose to going to work- it feels more like family than a rat race. When someone joins our team, we propagate the idea that “this is the last job they should ever want to have”, which means, “You’re here, you made it… you’re home now.” there’s no price you can put on that. — Alex and Clint Williams, Dave Madrid
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose-driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
It’s always been our philosophy that businesses in the 21st century (as previously mentioned), should have a focus on unified prosperity rather than capital equity for the sake of longevity. That ultimately means that when a business organization is focused on the greater good, eg. fundamentally helping people, it will ultimately lead to more success as a whole. If you believe in karma, I think it’s a cycle- the more good you do, the better comes back. We need to see more businesses stepping up and attempting to better the communities that they serve. This is why we’ve partnered with entities like The Salvation Army, Make-A-Wish, and CalTrans on philanthropic efforts aside from the collective work we do to clean up our streets and serve the public- again, we exist to serve, not sell. — Alex Williams
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill? From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Not just in business, but in life as a whole, it’s easy to stagnate- as human beings we can grow complacent and that is a vicious process. For a leader in that position, I would suggest taking note of what their rising counterparts may be doing and applying that to their own business- there are a lot of great ideas out there that can sometimes be applied to your own business, even if it’s just a philosophical approach. There’s a quote that I love: “The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop living”, I believe that you have to continue to self educate- sometimes learning from younger generations is the best way to grow. The last thing you want to do when striving for success with your business is growing stubborn and forgetful that everything in life is a cycle; entropy is natural. Just remember that one can always make a comeback with the right mentality and work ethic. — Dave Madrid
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
We’ve been very fortunate to have maintained steady growth over the course of one of the most troubled times in recent history. We owe a lot of success to our leaders and the “outside the box” approach they’ve inspired, which we applied to our business model. I believe in listening to ideas; I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I may not understand them immediately, but a team is only as good as the sum of its parts. We have some incredible people in our organization, they push me to be the best version of myself, just the same as they’ve discovered their greater potential since joining us- we’re extremely collaborative, and that has proved to be very successful. Actively listening to what someone is offering to bring to the table rather than being stubborn and set in your ways can sometimes be the difference between life and death for an up-and-coming business.- Clint Williams
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
There’s obviously an expectation for a business owner to be attached to their phone, but I can’t tell you how much this thing has become a part of me- it’s like an extension of my arm. I hate to admit it, but I’m on the phone constantly- the more your business grows, the more you’ll be in demand. Prepare to be needed. Keep your finger on.- Dave Madrid
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
You’d be surprised how many sales consultants don’t care about the customer- if you want to increase conversion, you have to be empathetic. Actively listen to what people’s needs are and see if that’s something that you can honestly attend to. The goal isn’t ultimately just to make money- yes, we all have to put food on the table, but coming back to the karma point from earlier, all of that comes around if you’re doing the right thing. Do you want higher conversions? Make sure you’re doing what you do for the right reasons; everything else will follow suit. — Alex Williams
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
This is a pretty simple answer that I think gets overlooked or is misunderstood by a lot of business owners- creating trust in a brand comes down to doing good business. People always talk, especially when they have a negative experience. A person is tenfold more likely to go leave a negative review of a business if they hated the product or the service; if they’re happy they’ll tend to just use the product, but if asked they’ll tell their peers how great it is… it’s important to push the “above & beyond” mantra within any organization because you don’t just want to be good, you want to be excellent. When your business is synonymous with the gold standard for your industry, trust is inherent- then you know you’re doing something right. — Clint Williams
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to building a beloved brand and essential to being successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Just to recap, you want to listen to what the customer needs, make sure to deliver on their expectations, and follow up consistently- what’s working now may not work later. It’s not just important to get a sale or move units in any business, what’s important is a residual business- you want people to love it so much they come back. — Clint Williams
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I think a lot of CEOs and founders don’t pay attention to the big picture- this can be for a number of different reasons, but ultimately you have to look forward to the future. I wake up every day with this vision in my mind- where I see us going in five years, ten years, et cetera. I have conversations with my partners and leaders regularly; they all share a vision- it’s unified. We want to make sure the wheel keeps turning. — Dave Madrid
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I believe that everybody has an inspirational story that can be shared and can absolutely change someone’s life- whether it’s the belief or encouragement to inspire action, that can be all that’s necessary to catalyze the spark in someone’s existence. I believe fear is the enemy in our lives- by sharing our stories, we can help one another become the best versions of ourselves. I want to see humanity uplifted by communication- sometimes all it takes is sharing your experience. — Dave Madrid
How can our readers further follow you online?
You can follow our page on Instagram @solarenergypartners, or contact us via our website www.solarenergy.partners.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
Thank you so much for having us!