Pacific Business News
Executive Insight Column
Mar 10, 2017, 5:00am HST
It was in late 2007 when a friend of Eric Carlson’s was asked to lead the sales effort of an up-and-coming solar energy company.
“He asked me to come over because of my background in construction management and sales,” Carlson told Pacific Business News. “Solar was still in its infancy stage — a lot of mom-and-pop types of businesses. The goal was to implement a more professional offering and customer experience to the solar space that existed in more mature industries like the building industry.”
He saw an opportunity and jumped right in. In July 2009, he and several others started RevoluSun, which has grown to become one of the largest solar companies in the state.
With the slowdown in the industry mainly due to the ending of the net energy metering incentive program in late 2015, several companies were forced to shut down with many others downsizing.
RevoluSun, among others, pivoted to add more variety to its product offerings beyond just selling and installing rooftop solar panels.
Today, the Honolulu-based company is also marketing the “Smart Home” offerings built inside its showroom on Ward Avenue in an old Bank of Hawaii space.
Some of its offerings include solar water heaters that utilize photovoltaic technology, whole-house fans, natural lighting solutions, electric vehicle charging stations and efficient pool pumps.
Carlson now serves as RevoluSun’s chief innovation officer, after having served as the company’s marketing director.
PBN caught up with him to get his take of what he feels is the biggest reward of his job and the biggest mistake he’s made in business.
What’s the biggest challenge of your job? Our biggest challenge is to perform, plan and operate a steady business in a very unstable landscape. We jokingly refer to our industry as the “solar coaster.” As with any disruptive technology or industry, opposition usually arises from the status quo. Hawaii’s solar PV industry is no exception to that. There is a lot at stake for Hawaii and many questions that are still unanswered as to what our energy infrastructure will look like in the near future, but it’s clear that solar electricity is now and will continue to be the cleanest, cheapest, most abundant form of electricity for Hawaii.
What’s the biggest reward? Our biggest reward is the work we do with the community. At our core, we truly believe that what we do outside of the office is just as important as the work we do inside. We donate our time, services and resources to a number of local organizations that promote environmental stewardship, education for our keiki and encourage healthy lifestyles in the communities all over the Islands.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in business? My biggest mistake was shying away from areas of the business that I didn’t have a lot of experience in. I compartmentalized myself for a long time. While my partners in those areas are more than qualified, when I learned more about those areas I provided a different perspective, which at times led to more efficient solutions to a problem. This goes both ways as I routinely ask my partners for advice and insight on things I’m working on and it’s always helpful.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned? That enthusiastically supporting and genuinely helping others always comes back to you. Also, volunteering is the best form of medicine.
What is hardest thing you have had to do in business? Having to constrict our business during the challenging times brought on by sudden policy changes in our industry and having to let good, passionate members of our team go has been the hardest thing I’ve had to do.
How many people work for you? We currently have 75 people at RevoluSun Smart Home.
How do you hire? First and foremost, we want to be an attractive company to work for, so that we are attracting the best talent, which helps streamline the hiring process. We set the standards high for ourselves and do great work. Secondly, we evaluate if we can promote from within our organization, so that way we know that they already have a good understanding of the expectations and also know where our company is heading.
How do you retain employees? By attracting the right talent, we have people that share similar levels of enthusiasm, passion and professionalism. And of course we like to create a healthy, fun work environment that keeps morale high. For example, we do lots of volunteer work with our team, invite healthy workplace experiences like yoga classes, and also throw good old-fashioned office parties with lots of food.
When do you get your best ideas? For me, it’s anytime I’m getting the heart pumping, whether in the gym, riding my bike, hiking or surfing.
How do you start your day? Watching the sunrise.
Who inspires you? Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia Clothing Co., is my inspiration. He is what a CEO should aspire to be, he is hardcore in holding himself accountable and has stayed true to the core values of “build the best product, causing no unnecessary harm and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” As a result, they are dominating the outdoor clothing line industry.
Founding partner and chief innovation officer, RevoluSun LLC
Address: 210 Ward Ave., Suite 140,
Honolulu, HI 96814