COVID-19 has hit New York hard, and New York has responded with its trademark toughness and attitude. I couldn’t be more in awe of the bravery of the medical professionals and essential workers who are putting everything on the line for all of us.
It is because of those brave New Yorkers working in hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, delivery, and others, that businesses are reopening across the state.
New York companies like mine, a renewable energy home geothermal company, worked hard during the pause to be ready to get get back to work safely. Our number one priority is ensuring that our customers and employees are safe and healthy.
That means rethinking and reworking our business practices to follow health expert recommendations and social distancing. For New York’s renewable energy industry, it’s particularly essential to get it right.
Climate change and air pollution will remain serious challenges even when COVID is a thing of the past. Scientists have made it clear that we have just a decade to make significant progress on clean energy if we’re going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
How do you run a renewable energy company in this new reality? We’ve rethought everything. To be honest, I think the changes we’re making due to this crisis will make us a stronger business and a stronger industry.
I used to say running a start-up business is like building a ship when you’re at sea. Now, because of COVID-19, we had to hit pause on much of our business operations—which was like coming into harbor to rebuild the ship. The pause allowed our business to take a longer look at improving all our business practices and adapting to our new reality.
The results have been positive. I know our business has innovated and adapted at a rapid pace. Changes that might have happened over months or years in normal times have happened in just hours or days during the crisis. The most visual example of our changing business that we’ve moved everything possible to virtual. Before the crisis, our sales and system design processes relied on face-to-face and being at our customer’s homes. Sales were often completed around the kitchen table and sealed with a handshake.
We moved our entire sales process to virtual. Our sales team became video call experts and we’ve found that the skills that make good salespeople translate nearly seamlessly to virtual meetings.
Perhaps more importantly, we’ve found that our customers have rapidly innovated as well. Nearly everyone in New York has taken a crash course in video meetings over the past few months and is now very comfortable meeting virtually. Our customers have been working and connecting with friends and family online during this crisis in a way that they never had before.
For years we’ve known the benefits of moving to more virtual business and meetings. It’s much more efficient, environmentally-friendly and easier to schedule. People can be at home or on the go. Our sales team have reduced their time stuck in traffic to (nearly) zero and can do double or triple the number of sales meetings in a day. Geography doesn’t matter with virtual meetings; we can sell in areas that we would like to expand and build up a customer base for future installations.
I expect that even when this crisis passes that we – and many other companies – will be doing most sales meetings virtually. It’s precisely the type of business tactic that – driven by necessity – will make our company and industry stronger and more resilient when we come out of this.
Second, we’ve moved our entire site survey and design process to virtual as well. The site survey, which, as the name implies, would previously have happened at the customer’s home where a Dandelion employee would take photographs and measurements around the project. By using a series of innovative tools and processes, we’ve been able to re-engineer the site survey process and combine it with our design process, so not only does it happen without anyone having to step foot into a customer’s home, it’s quicker and more effective.
Sales & design are the clearest examples, but there are other ways we’re redesigning our business processes. We’ve ramped-up virtual support services for our customers. We’re streamlining business processes and shifting marketing. All of these innovations will make our company safer, healthier and stronger as we come out of this crisis.
For New York’s renewable energy industry, it’s particularly essential to get it right. Climate change and air pollution remain serious challenges; scientists have made clear that we have just a decade to make significant progress on clean energy if we’re going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. I know as I talk with other business leaders in New York, we’re all excited to get back to work. These are unquestionably difficult times for New York and the world, but we’ll beat this crisis and become a safer, healthier, and stronger New York.