Episode #5. Client Engagement with Daniel O'Malley

01.03.2020

Guest of the day: 

Daniel O'Malley, the Client Engagement Manager for Auric Solar.

Daniel worked with Auric Energy for over 4 years in a variety of roles, from direct door to door sales, to roof analysis and preliminary solar array layout, up to training and managing a team of lead coordinators. 

Now Daniel is creating сontent about the solar industry and educating about energy savings is his primary focus. He keeps messaging consistent across internal and external communications. Social media, blogging, video, and visual content to spread the word about solar and capture hearts & minds!

LinkedIn

Company:

Auric Solar is the number one reviewed solar provider in the United States.

What will you learn?

  • The incredible growth of Auric Solar
  • How it was supported by new sales and marketing
  • Selling in energy space, what are the challenges?
  • What marketing channels does Auric Solar utilize and where you are looking at?

Transcript

Michael:   How would you explain the incredible growth of your company in space? I know that alternative energy and solar are on top of folks' minds for a long time and a lot of states and a lot of companies are investing in that. But you guys are just killing it right now in terms of growth, and how you're expanding.

You are in four states right now?

 
Daniel:     Yeah.
 
Michael:   So you are in Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Colorado?
 
Daniel:    That's correct. Yep.
 
Michael:   So is that because you have a great product and your product team is amazing, or are you kind of marketing and sales driven, and you're doing a great job there as well? What's the secret sauce there?
 
Daniel:  It's always kind of the question at the root of any business.
Why are you guys so good at what you do? What sets you apart from the hundreds of other solar installers out there?

That's something that we get asked quite a bit. I've been with the company for about five years. It will be five years in a couple weeks here. The company's been around for going on 10 years, and I think the main thing that I can attribute it to just being here and kind of feeling the culture of what we have is it's about the experience.

Any other company or any other industry, I should say is going to be very product driven for the most part, but we are, as you well know, we are kind of migrating over towards this experience economy for a lot of industries and solar is no different.

It is something that you put as a home upgrade service at the end of the day basically, but we do provide this experience of 'Hey, this is going to help you save money on your power bill. It's going to help you save the planet. You're going to be helping improve air quality by reducing your own carbon footprint. You can charge an electric car straight off of the solar so you can be saving. You can just imagine the possibilities for your own life by going with renewable energy.'
 
So it is really something that I think speaks to a lot of people on a deeper level than hey, I just a Christmas present for my kids. They're going to like it for a couple of months and then they're going to get tired of it till next Christmas comes around.

This is something that lasts decades. I mean, we put panels up on the roof. The manufacturers that we use, they all have a 25 year plus manufacturer warranty on all the components so it's not going anywhere. I mean, a lot of the times it's going to outlast the roof that we put it over.

So it's definitely something that we want to be there for the long haul. We're not just going to be a cut-and-run installer there. That's something that I think it's hard to quantify exactly how many different companies are out there really in the same level that we're at, because there are a lot of solar installers, but not all of them are in it for the long haul like we are. So it's hard to say how much competition we really have at any given time.
 
Just an example. A couple of years ago, there were probably over 100 solar companies in Utah operational, and then there was a change to the utility policy and almost overnight, we dropped back down to maybe 20. But we were one of the ones that had been around before it, for the big kind of gold rush, and we had every intention to continue on and we did so. And there's only again, probably a handful of companies that I could look at and say, okay, they're not going anywhere. They're not going to cut and run when the going gets tough.
 
So when we founded the company — I should say, when I went our founder — again, I wasn't here the whole time but I like to pretend I can take credit, one of the experiences that kind of sparked the process, the founder, Jess Phillips, his dad was our first customer, and what he did as kind of a market test was he reached out to I think, maybe a half dozen solar installers,  just looked them up online and reached out and said: 

- Hey, I want to buy solar. Can you give me a quote?

Most of them didn't get back to him, and then the ones that did, maybe had like one phone call and then just flaked and vanished. So that experience specifically was one of the driving principles, I think was, hey, we can do better than that obviously by just showing up honestly, and obviously, we're going to be around to follow through on the commitments that we make.
 
One of our other co-founders, Daniel Bishop, he was an instructor in solar for a very long time, and so he really knew how to do it right, and so they've been doing it now for again over a decade, and we're able to say, hey, not only are we going to show up and answer the phone obviously. We're going to be there to see you through every step, walk you through all the permitting and the design and the installation and all the backend support to make sure it's doing what we said it's going to do, and it's going to be helping clean the air.

Pretty much as soon as we flip the switch, you're going to see more or less immediate results. I mean, it takes about a few months, anywhere from six to eight weeks sometimes longer to get from signed contract all the way through to panels actually operational on your roof.

So that's again part of that experience is we want to make sure that you're not a customer who has just kind of left holding the bag like well wait a minute, what did I sign up for? I haven't heard anything. nobody's been out to my house. I don't have anything on my roof yet. What's going on? So it's about again, staying in communication, making sure that the customers can reinforce their own decision by seeing what's going to come out of it at the end of the day, and really, as soon as you get your first power bill, it's kind of an obvious thing. I've had solar on my roof for two years now and I haven't paid more than $30 in years. The normal bill that I get is $8.97, and that's a great feeling. every time I open the bill in the mail, I'm like, Alright, cool, still working. still doing exactly what I want it to so it is all about that. it is all about being able to show that impact and make the customer feel that they are having an impact.
 
Michael:   How do you guys communicate that message to your clients through content? Do you use any specific channels for that, or are you just doing email marketing newsletters?

What would you suggest are your main channels for communicating that vision and that message to your clients and educating them?

 
Daniel:    It is kind of a mixed bag. Email is still a very, very powerful tool. We've got a lot of content on our website, like blog posts, we do a lot of social media posts. So, kind of a mix of that as we can send out a newsletter, you can link to a blog post, you can share a snapshot of Instagram posts, something like that.

There are a lot of different methods and every medium is going to have its own challenges as far as what's most impactful for a customer. some people want to see a really nice picture of a house with solar panels on it and say, oh yeah, I could be that person.

Some people want to see the data. We get a lot of people who are really numbers-driven, case studies. They want to see all the guts of the system and everything in action. So it's all about being able to provide breadth, a wealth of different options because different things are going to speak to different people.

We've got over 7,000 customers and I can assure you that not all of them resonate with one single message or one single communication. Some people just want a text. some people just say hey, yeah, your solar's in and we got your permit back from the city, and that's good enough for them. There are all kinds of ways to explore that. Email probably is still my go-to. I guess I could go back and forth with email, and I'm preferable to Instagram myself. So just again, I think being able to communicate with a visual medium is powerful, but that's just me. That's my preference.
 
Michael:   So out of those 7000 customers that you've mentioned, how many of those are large commercial real estate or commercial business owners? You do work with direct consumers, correct?
 
Daniel:    We do. Yeah. We've got a little over 100. Actually, we're probably creeping up on close to 200 commercial or industrial level clients. One of our flagship projects is a soccer stadium here in Salt Lake City. It's got about 6,423 solar panels if I remember correctly, and it's still one of the largest privately-owned systems in Utah.

That represents the largest utility offset out of any major league sports stadium in the country. There are a few arrays I think back east on a couple of football stadiums, or maybe a baseball stadium that is larger in size and overall per panel megawatt, but our system covers anywhere between 73 to 90-something percent of their power usage at any given time of year. That's definitely a huge benefit to them. It saves them over $1,000 a day. That's just one example.
 
We have a portfolio of case studies that we've been compiling to send out to new clients. Again, just like every individual consumer is different, every business is different. They're going to have different needs. They're going to have different facilities, different applications that will be able to execute forum.

For example, with the stadium, we put probably 90 to 95% of the panels on covered parking. So now all of the stadium guests have a place to park under and tailgate and party before the games and all that kind of thing. keep their cars cool from heat, all that good stuff and at the same time, by designing the carports that specific way, we were able to talk to the stadium, talk to the facilities managers, and say, hey, if you guys just time firing up your big stadium lights a little bit differently, you're going to avoid these huge spikes in demand and be able to see a better lower cost of operation overall, because the panels are going to be firing up all at the same time.

We're all about finding that solution for the customer. And you can slap panels on any surface and say, hey, you'll probably be fine. It'll work just fine, but solar is an incredibly resilient technology and it'll produce power. But if you can come up with creative solutions, make sure that we're identifying customer needs and getting ahead of certain things that could help them in their business, that's really what we're all about. It's definitely, again, much more than just a one-size-fits-all solution.
 
Michael:  How does it work from the customer journey perspective? Your inside sales rep closes a deal and then what's next? Does he just hand over the client to a project manager? Do you guys do any due diligence first? How does it work from starting with a new client?
 

Daniel:  Yeah, that's a great question. The way it works is we do have reps out there, both internal and external. We do EPC work for some outside sales groups as well. Basically, whenever we get a contract, then we do a little bit of due diligence, make sure that income verification, especially questions like tax liability can be a concern.

We don't ever want to surprise somebody who's expecting, hey, I'm going to get a big tax credit next year by signing up for solar this year and it turns out you haven't paid taxes in 10 years. So no, you're not going to get anything from the government. That's a bad surprise. That's a bad customer experience. So we absolutely try and catch that as part of our due diligence and then yes, essentially after that, we hand it off to Project Manager.
 
It goes first to our design team. We have an incredibly talented design team. That's one of the departments that I honestly love to brag about the most because we just have the smartest guys in the room, absolutely top of the heap when it comes to innovative thinking and then accuracy. They do hundreds of projects every month and they're able to turn around really fast, and also identify problems and part of that due diligence is, hey, wait a minute, you know, we sold the customer 30 panels, but we're only going to be able to fit 20-something on this roof.

We're going to have to find some other way to get the rest of them up there, or that so we always want to make sure that we're giving the best bang for the buck at every stage. Once the design is out, it goes to the local municipality for permitting and approving and that's really the longest part. That's kind of the hurry-up-and-wait stage, unfortunately. We don't have a lot of visibility once it leaves our hands and it goes to the city office, and we just wait for the stamp. And luckily, again, we do have a great track record with every municipality that we work in, because they've seen our work now, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of times, so they know what to expect from us. We've set the bar very high so we are able to get a pretty good turnaround on these days.
 
Once we receive it back, our project manager gets the install crew out there. The installation itself usually only takes about a day. There are some of these larger, more complex projects that can take maybe a couple of days residentially. Commercially it can be a totally different story.

Obviously, we've got a project, for example, right now we started it in January of this year, and it's going to be completed, hopefully by December next year, maybe even early Q1, 2021. It's 26 huge apartment units. That's a virtual power plant. There are batteries in every single one of the units. it's called Soleil Lofts. So totally different timelines when it comes to residential versus commercial, but it is something that again, that is part of the experience, we want to make sure that we're delivering timely, and we are pretty seasonal with that regard because of the tax credits. Because that's such a huge driver for a lot of people, we do want to make sure that our systems when we say, hey, we've said we're going to get it installed by this year. It's going to get on your roof and you'll be able to file for your taxes and get that on the next tax cycle. We definitely want to make sure we're delivering on that.
 
Michael:   Did you guys see any seasonality in your business?  Do you guys have a high and low season in the year?
 
Daniel:    We do. Yeah, I mean, it's something partially because of that tax deadline. We actually get really, really busy in Q4 usually, but also right around Spring and Summer. That's when we see a pretty big jump as well, because that's when people start getting really nasty power bills because they've been running their AC all the sudden. I didn't know I was going to pay 300$ or 400$ for my power bill this month. What's going on? So that's another pretty big driver there. The truth of it is the best time to install solar is later in the year, because you do get a full cycle of sunlight basically.

You get the full year, the full season of building up solar credits on your net metering account with the power company, and that's able to carry you through both the high summer bills as well as through winter and into the next year basically. So that's something that we know kind of internally, it's not as commonly known outside and so that’s another challenge we always face.

Not just the seasonality but just again, the kind of the educational aspect of it, because constantly we don't know whether we're running into somebody who is a solar guru of their own. They've been researching it since the 70s and they're an engineer or whatever, or somebody who needs every step of solar 101 from the very get-go. We're educators before we're salespeople. We do want to make sure that we're telling people what is going to happen.
 
Michael:   What percentage do you think are folks that just build houses or apartment blocks, and start with solar right away, compared to the folks that are transitioning to solar? Do you think it makes sense to educate people on solar when they are just starting this household journey so that you could increase the percentage of overall households under solar usage?

Are you seeing any trend recently on people starting their houses or building anything new and just going straight with solar, or are they still using some more traditional energy channels and solar is just one of those but it's not the main channel yet?

 
Daniel:    That's an excellent point. I mean, we have seen more recently where people are coming to us and saying, Hey, I'm building a house. I've got some plans already. Or maybe I don't even have plans yet. I want to talk to solar experts to see what I should be looking for when I'm consulting with the builder. That's definitely a growing trend. I wouldn't say it's a huge percentage yet, somewhat, unfortunately, but definitely with regulations like have been passed in California where every new building has to have solar on it. I think it's going to become a much more common trend, certainly in that state and probably across the region.

We do I'd say again, probably 90 to 95% of ours are retrofitted into existing homes, but we've done a number of design-to-build projects, both residentially and commercially. We actually had one that we built from the blueprints up, and it's a big commercial building big office building, but it's got this beautiful solar wing on top of it. It's a really, really striking structure and so yeah, there are people who kind of want that aesthetic.

Personally, I think the panels are great. We use really aesthetically pleasing, very sleek, black on black panels. They are not the typical kind of shiny, industrial, doesn't look like a power plant on your roof or anything like that, but we do have people who say I want this to be as integrated into the structure as possible. I want it to be more or less seamless, and so I want to have my roof angled at the exact perfect pitch. What's that going to be? And so we'll consult with people, regardless of what their project goals are, and find out what we can do to give them the best end result.
 
Michael:   Interesting. Is the demand right now higher than supply, or the supply is still higher than demand?
 
Daniel:    Right this minute, it's actually pretty tight but that's mostly because ... there's a variety of factors. There are a lot of companies, again, they're trying to meet those end-of-year goals. There were some tariffs that came into play, and so there are a lot of manufacturers who were expecting a huge rush with tariffs coming in, as well as incentives potentially expiring this year.

That's still kind of near with Congress right now, but the federal tax credit is set to step down this year by 4%. So there's a big boom there. There's a lot of customers who want to get that under the wire basically. So I would say this particular incident we're talking… yes, we have seen a very, very big boost in demand and so that's stretching supply lines pretty tight. The industry has kept growing and growing and growing and always there's going to be growing pains.

So there's enough momentum that it would take pretty much a catastrophic combination of factors to slow down the growth of renewable energy across the planet, of course, but definitely, in the US, I think we'll continue to see both supply and demand just continue to exponentially grow. Ideally, they stay pretty much in step,
 
Michael:   Got it! It's interesting. Going back to when you mentioned that one of your founders when he started the company, reached out to several providers at that time and asked for a quote and didn't hear back from them. Do you guys have a dedicated agent to handle any inbound leads, or are you kind of distributing that among your salesforce internally?
 
Daniel:    Both actually. Yes, we do have an in the house we call it our inside sales team. For the most part, we give all of our freshest leads to sales reps directly for them to work through and disposition and everything. Once they've done their best with it, we do have our inside sales team who comes and cleans up anything that's maybe been out there for a week or so, and so we're doing our absolute best to make sure nobody slips through the cracks once they've made a request and we definitely get plenty of success that way. That's another thing. That's another interesting challenge with the industry is that there are so many lead aggregators out there.

Probably - I mean, I hate to say it - they almost outnumber actual solar companies sometimes it seems like at least, where they're just essentially a funnel, just trying to capture people's information and sell it to a solar company. There's so many of those out there, so it can be tough to have a customer who thinks they've filled out a form just requesting one quote, but that lead aggregator sold it to maybe four or five different companies, and it's just going to have them kind of duke it out. So that customers may get called four or five, maybe even 10 times by different solar companies so that can be a real turnoff.
 
Michael:  Is any automation installed on your website that kind of fires out an email once a new user is registered to the website, or are you just trying to give a call back right away? How does it work if I go in and register on your website? What should I expect?
 

Daniel: Directly on our website we are working on automation like that, and that'll be something hopefully in the very near future. But right now, what happens is it goes into our CRM system, and then the rep gets notified via a text notification saying you've got a new lead in your pipeline, and they're expected to go in and call and then send a text or send an email that way.

So we do want to still keep it a little bit more personalized, but that can also be kind of a detriment for speed. It's always hard to strike that balance of what's going to be the best human touch we can give to every customer without just seeming like an automated, you got thrown onto a robot treadmill, and you're going to be worked through the wringer before you actually can just talk to a human and your questions answered.

So that's always something that we're toying with, and that's something I've worked through for years now. I mean, there's, again, no perfect solution out there. There's definitely plenty of options to explore and find a good enough or close to, but if there's a perfect solution out there, somebody calls me.
 
Michael:   Would you say that it's more challenging to build at the top of the funnel, or the challenge is in actual closing rate and educating a qualified lead who is not a buyer yet if it makes any sense?
 
Daniel:    Right, right. Absolutely. That's one of the reasons why having good content is so, so important because the more education you can do upfront, the more you can be a willing aid in their solar journey, whether or not it's with you as their installer, but just being willing to educate first and make sure that the buyer is qualifying themselves. That makes it so your top of the funnel is much, much more likely to fall through to the bottom for sale.

So that's something that we've always tried to do on our website is, again, have good content that lets people kind of self-medicate, if you will, and then go through the process of getting a quote. We have really great closing ratios actually, but it's partially just because our sales reps are very experienced, very knowledgeable. Again, being willing to educate and will turn down a sale if through our education process we discover maybe it's really not a good solution for these people right now, for whatever reason.

I have always kind of joked that the only reason you shouldn't go solar right now is if you can't really fog a mirror at the moment. That's just my personal opinion, but we do have a great sales team and we do try and give them the best chance of closing by making sure that they're getting good leads, well-qualified leads of people who know just enough that they're ready to move forward.
 
Michael:   How many salespeople do you guys have?
 
Daniel:  We have a few dozen across all four markets. We probably have close to 30, I think. I used to set the appointments myself. I used to be part of the inside sales team before I was in marketing so I used to know it by heart. kind of lost on my head, but I've departed a little bit from that world. Yes, I know that we've got a good sales force in each of our markets. At least half a dozen or more people in each team.
 
Michael:  So is there any difference between those salespeople that are selling to commercial and industrial clients, and direct to consumers? Do you differentiate internally different roles in sales in that regard?
 
Daniel:    We do. Yes, we do actually because commercial is just such a completely different animal for the sales process. You know, a close on a residential home can be anywhere from your very first meeting to maybe a month or so down the road.

Some people kick the tires for longer, but a commercial sales almost by definition going to start at the earliest it's going to close is probably a couple of months or so, because you need to gather power bills, you need to do site visits, you need to put together much more complex proposals because of commercial utility rates versus residential schedules. So yes, we definitely differentiate the salesforce.
 
Michael:   How many deals or ongoing conversations should I have in my pipeline as a sales rep? Let's put the question in a different light. If I were to start my own company, or if I were to establish that because I've been that product-driven for a while, and now I want to also have some salespeople dedicated to selling, how many leads or deals should I have in my pipeline to kind of sustain the growth?

And then if I were to hire a second, third, fourth, and scale my sales team, what would you suggest in terms of how many deals or leads or conversation should I have at the top of my funnel to make sure that I can sustain the growth and hit my targets, but at the same time, my salespeople will not be just sitting around and saying, sorry, I don't have enough leads. I need more leads because I cannot hit my targets.

 
Daniel:    Right, right. That's an incredibly complex question. I don't know that there's a perfect answer. The main thing I would say is it depends on your bandwidth. Obviously, you need to have a balance between both your sales coming into the pipeline and also what you can output on the back end as a fulfillment team or whoever you're going to contract that out too.

We do everything in house, so we do keep our PMs busy, but the reps, the really successful reps can do a lot with the little. Again, it really depends on your sales team itself. Every sales rep is going to be different. Everybody's going to have their own preference on how to generate leads, or which types of leads to speak to and to handle in their own method. We've got just for perspective; we've got about three verticals that we generally get leads from. One is we just call it company leads, which is anything that company purchases from outside lead aggregators, like www.dolarreviews.com.

We've been on their website for a number of years and we're actually the top-rated on their site, and we get a lot of leads from them. We get a lot of leads from Facebook campaigns. We get leads from our website, other lead vendors out there. So that all kind of becomes a company lead, then we have a door-knocking team canvassing crew in almost all of our states right now. And that's something that they can vary. That's tricky to make work sometimes.

So you do need to make sure you're having a good conversation at the door, but not giving away too much with the perspective lead. And then the last vertical would be anything the rep brings to the table themselves, and that's going to be networking, customer referrals, going to events, setting up with booths somewhere, any number of their own generation efforts.

So the ideal scenario is you never want reps just sitting around saying hey, I don't have enough leads because, to me, the answer is well to go get some. What are you doing? Who have you talked to you lately? Where have you gone out and tried to network with a business, for example, and say, can we do lunch? Any number of different exercises like that is hugely valuable. Set up a booth at a street fair, things like that.
 
So the short answer I can give really depends on your bandwidth really depends on what the sales reps skill sets are, and if you can make sure that they're processing a good number of leads. We have reps who have a 60% close rate. So again, they're doing a lot with a little. They don't need to have... oh, I need to have exactly 36 leads in my funnel at any given time to get this. No, they're just burning through. They're just cheating. So that's definitely a pretty broad spectrum there.
 
Michael:   Okay, interesting. What would you say in terms of working with a sales team and training and growing with the sales team? Do you have any dedicated training program for that? How do you mentor and grow your sales team to be at where they are right now, or do you just focus more on hiring very high tier individuals that would not need any training, or would you say that you grow the team from within?
 
Daniel:    That's an excellent question. And again, there's probably a mix. We have a lot of reps; a lot of our sales reps out right now have been with the company for quite a while so we don't have a dedicated training platform anymore. We leave that up to the sales managers in each market. But the other really, really powerful component is not just hiring the right person who's already got a skill set but the culture of our sales crew and our company in general.

What you may find that a lot of other solar companies are kind of that' shark smelling blood in the water, dog eats dog, every man for himself', got to get out there. That is absolutely not the case here. We have just incredible people working for us who are always willing to lift up their fellow teammates if they have a new person who is kind of struggling, you'll easily find at least a couple reps or reach out, kind of take them under their wing say, Hey, here's what's worked for me.

Let's learn what's going to work best for you and that kind of thing, so that's something that I think has really again set us apart. We're all about that mentality of a rising tide lifts all boats. You're never going to find a salesperson here who's going to try and steal some of this pipeline. It's not Glengarry Glen Ross out here like that.
 
Michael:   My copywriter just recently asked me to share some insights because I've been working on a new case study for how one can hire salespeople effectively, and there is a lot of content out there to support and share details of what the hiring process for salespeople is.

And the very last question that was asked was, can you give an example of the questions that you usually ask during the interview with a salesperson? Can you share any questions that you have on the top of your head to support that? What questions do you usually ask, or would you ask while interviewing a salesperson, maybe in the very last or qualifying stage, not at the very beginning of the process? Or the very latest stage, maybe somewhere in the middle?

 
Daniel:    Honestly, that's a great question for my colleague, who's our hiring manager. I don't do any of the interviews myself, so I know that she's got some great ones and she's just an amazing person. That's key, I'd say, just from having worked with her. You absolutely need to have an incredibly empathetic person. who is really sharp on your hiring team.
 
Michael:   You have a very healthy working environment, based on what you're sharing right now. The values and the vision and workflow and the people that you work with are just amazing. What do you do within the company to share this vision or the same attitude or ethic towards the employees? Is that something that is driven from the head trim to the bottom, or do you have a HR manager that kind of starts this program for maintaining that healthy environment? Are there any kind of tweaks or any insights that you can share?
 
Daniel:    One of the things ... again, it's got to be a mix of treating people right, those internal email communications, keeping people informed the right way, and making sure that you're sending the right message to the company. That's something that I do a lot in marketing, but we also have our HR team organizes potlucks or even just the interdepartmentally. we will have the customer service team will throw a potluck, the design team will throw potluck or get pizzas and bring it into the office and share with anybody who happens to be around.

So I'd say, like you asked whether it's head to the bottom or anything, honestly what comes to mind is just it's in every cell of everybody's body here. So it's not necessarily something that has to be generated from grassroots up or trickle down or anything like that We were lucky enough to bring in people who are going to get supplemented. they've already got that good bone in their body and once they see that that's encouraged at the workplace, people are more than willing to step up.

Honestly, one of the things that I did is I started sending out just sort of like a company culture update every once in a while, just as a newsletter out to the company and had just a great response. Especially there are some times where you come into crunch time, and you have people who are really just nose to the grindstone and it can kind of wear them down and not everybody's just a machine and can work through and work through, face adversity, so you have to have some way to lift them up a little bit.

Again, everybody responds to a different message but that's where I got a lot of feedback, just from having told a story about my own personal experience with working here. When I was on the sales team, I had just left an appointment. hadn't closed on it, but it wasn't a bad appointment. I was just kind of like, Ah, you know, I'm still in it. I'll keep going.

And I was just going to go over to my buddy's house and sit down and hang out with him for a little bit, and I was driving down the road and I saw a car stalled out on the side of the road. this guy is out and his girlfriend is trying to steer it while he pushes it, and I decided myself, you know what? I'm going to jump out and help him, and I pulled into a parking lot, helped the guy push the car about like half a block and  it's the middle of July. it's hot, sweaty, and awful and one of the hardest things I've ever done. And the guy was a Hey, thanks, you know and bought me a Gatorade or something like that. And I was just thinking to myself, you know what? If I wasn't working for this company, if I wasn't doing something that I loved in an industry that I love, saving the planet every day, if I was still working at the call center job I'd had a couple of years before, I would have just kept driving. I would have been like that sucks for that guy. Sorry.

At least I'm not him, whatever. So I think it's almost infectious. It's almost something that you just are able to feel that by being here. So I just shared that story, something that resonated with people in there. That's great. You gave me exactly what I needed. I was having a rough day, and that's all I needed to hear. So being able to share those experiences and again, kind of encourage people to just step up and share a story or share something. Buy somebody lunch. Maybe that's all they need for the day.
 
Michael:   I've been visiting one of our European clients a year ago or so, and while I was having a tour of the office, I noticed they had this … they call it the thanks-box. Long story short, every employee can go ahead and write the note to another person, like the name and what they are thankful for, like thank you, Danny, for amazing training session, or thank you, Danny, for helping me out with that project that we were having challenges with, something like that, and then once a month, they are giving away some gifts, company gifts, small ones, something that is just not very expensive, but it's still great for the person to receive something for the extra efforts that you put in to help. I noticed this and I like Oh, that's great. Maybe I can have the same in my company, and we actually have had that thanks box event every month for the last 12 months, and that just boosts the morale of everyone.

So basically, what we are doing we, we are not just putting those notes into the box and just giving away the gifts, but also, we are reading the notes out loud. And we are just cheering for every person that helped another person and it's company recognition. So me being a founder of the company and my co-founder were just spending like 25, 35 minutes just reading every message every note out loud and just, thanking every individual who helped, and that kind of boost the overall morale. and then we are just distributing the gifts of just some cups or some chocolate bars or gift bags or something like that. And that's super great.

People are just looking forward to having this monthly Thanksgiving event and that just makes the sum of the multitude, so we're basically wrapping up the month with that. Then starting a fresh month, and then do that, and that just works great for company culture. And that's great that I picked up that from one of our clients and it may be someone who could be listening to this can do the same for their company.

 
Daniel:    Absolutely. And I think that's something that we do as well actually. It's funny you mentioned it but we don't even have the gift portion really. what we have are trophies. We do a monthly roundtable, just kind of circle everybody back up, kind of recap like you said a month before, and then everybody stands in a circle. You can say something if you want, even if it's just sort of like, Hey, want to give this person a high five, but we also have these just kinds of silly trophies. When we have a couple of these golden shovels from big groundbreaking events.

Somebody has a trophy from their daughter's gymnastics class or something like that, that we brought it and repurposed, just kind of fun things like that. And we circulate those throughout the office. We'll have somebody like I had one last month where I just said, you know what? I have been hearing the procurement team on the phones every day, having, you know, sometimes really difficult conversations with vendors saying, Hey, where's my stuff, I got people who need this to get their jobs done and all that kind of stuff and just working really hard. And I want to give them this shovel because they've been shoveling through a whole lot of crap. So things like that.

I think it's really just that factor of recognition and gratitude. I think that is crucial. It's not the explicit reward because I have friends who work at other companies where they do that same kind of thing, but they have a $25 gift card attached to it, and the culture is, from what they tell me, just really toxic still, and then it's almost because people expect the $25 gift card and if they don't get it, they're just kind of like ... whatever, you know. So it's really, really important that you lay that foundation of gratitude and respect and recognition for people doing their jobs, even though I have no idea what the procurement division does. I don't work in the warehouse, but I can still recognize that they're working really hard.

They're doing everything they can to make their part of the company run as smoothly as possible so everybody else can get their job done and we're a functional machine overall. So, I think that's an immensely important thing for any company, regardless of what industry you're in.
 
Michael:   Do you think that this healthy company culture actually supported this incredible growth that you experienced over the years? Was it one of the factors?
 

Daniel:  Yeah, I would say it's absolutely a huge factor. Like any company, we've gone through ups and downs. we've had hard times. we've had to buckle down and work hard, and if you had a toxic work environment that you hate coming to work, hate your job and your coworkers bug you. You're just like, oh man, what am I even doing with my life? You're not going to get anywhere. you're not going to be a productive part of your company. you're not going to help the company reach those goals.

So I think to be able to have that optimism and work ethic that's kind of embedded in the culture of you're going to do the right thing. If you see something,  you're going to speak up and see if you have a solution for it, not to butt in and jump out of your lane and try and rework everything somebody built in their division, but be able to say, like, hey, have you tried this? Can I help? Can I do something to assist you guys, take a little bit of burden off you, something like that? I think that's something that if we didn't have that, I don't know where we'd be, but it wouldn't be here.
 
Michael:   This is a great point to wrap up this call.
 
Daniel:    We kind of got off the solar topic a little bit, but yes
 
Michael:  Yes, but eventually, that's where we were to get to, and I think that you raised some really interesting points and there's definitely a lot that I can think about after this.
 

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