Blue Raven Solar Mission and Values Origin Story

Prior to working at Blue Raven Solar, I worked at McKinsey & Company as a management consultant. McKinsey has a long and rich tradition around its mission and values. Shortly after I joined the firm, I remember learning that mission statements and value statements are not two ways of saying the same thing. They serve very different purposes. A company mission statement describes “why” an organization exists. A good mission statement captures why employees should come to work every day. Company values, on the other hand, describe “how” an organization should go about accomplishing its mission. Values are the guardrails or “instruction booklet” that guides decisions and behavior along the way.

When I joined Blue Raven Solar in 2015, we were a fledgling start up with an idea and a few salespeople. We wanted to give homeowners the entire value of going solar instead of capturing tax credits for ourselves and monetizing them like most solar companies. Our strategy was to acquire customers and sell the projects to installation companies to build. The idea seemed simple enough, but it turned out that installation companies prioritized their own customers over ours, homeowners were upset due to poor quality and missed deadlines, and we were burning through cash to finance projects that weren’t getting installed. I remember thinking there were three priorities in the early days: don’t run out of cash, figure out a way to get projects installed, and develop a coherent mission statement and set of values. Because the first two priorities were different ways of saying the same thing, articulating our mission statement and values was high on the priority list.

Over several months, our team eventually agreed on the following mission statement:

Our mission is to make homeowners’ lives better by reducing their energy bills, by increasing their reliance on clean and abundant renewable energy, and by providing a world-class customer experience through a reliable sales process and a speedy, high-quality installation.

Our mission statement is to make homeowners’ lives better. Unlike so many products in the marketplace, we ask our customers for permission to put more money in their wallet instead of asking for more share of their wallet. When customers save tens of thousands of dollars they would have otherwise paid their utility company, their lives are tangibly better. We are proud to be a part of this. To date, Blue Raven Solar has installed enough systems to save $350M[1] that would have otherwise been paid to utility companies for more expensive electricity.

We also make homeowners’ lives better by giving them access to clean energy. Customers tell us repeatedly that going solar just “feels great” because each installation tangibly impacts the environment by reducing carbon emissions. To date, Blue Raven Solar has shifted more than 1.6B kWh of energy to clean renewable solar energy, which is the equivalent of ~1.2 million[2] metric tons of carbon emissions. This is the same as reducing greenhouse gas emissions from over 250,000 cars for a year, or reducing gasoline consumption by over 130 million gallons. We are proud to be impacting the planet in a positive way and we know our customers are too.

Finally, we exist to provide a world-class customer experience. If that sounds ambitious, it is. We are dedicated to providing a great experience for a project that is complicated and labor-intensive. There are too many examples of poor workmanship, project delays, and even fraud in the solar industry—we take pride in being a brand that customers can trust.

In pursuing this mission, we agreed that we would abide by three main values:

1. Develop a High Trust Culture

2. Be Efficient

3. Continuously Improve

Trust is our first value, andView image on Twitter the foundation for the rest of our values. Without high trust relationships between the company, employees, customers, and partners, we can’t deliver on our mission. We must do what we say and say what we do or else the rest is for nothing.

Efficiency is our second value. As we save money and pass along cost improvements, our customers’ lives are better. Residential solar is still a relatively new technology with market penetration only around 2-3% of homes. Every cent we can save per watt is a win for the company and for our customers.

Continuous improvement is our third value. The solar industry is changing, solar technology is changing, our company is changing, and the world is changing. Complacency is antithetical to achieving our mission and inconsistent with our first two values. The mindset we are seeking across our entire organization is that we are never satisfied with the way things are done. We can always improve.

Every employee that works at our corporate headquarters attends a small discussion with me to learn our mission and values. Every 4 weeks, employees nominate each other for specifically living one of our values and winners are celebrated for setting good examples. While some of our values are more aspirational than perfectly descriptive of our current culture, we are in sincere pursuit of living the values across our organization. While this is challenging as we scale and grow, we are committed.

Blue Raven Solar is still a relatively young organization but we have already installed thousands of solar systems on homes across the United States and we will install many thousands more. We are proud to be making a meaningful impact for our customers, employees, and for the planet.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth view on how we implement each value at Blue Raven Solar. We will start with Value 1a. Keep commitments to homeowners, sales reps, employees, installers, technicians, vendors, and investors.

Our Values

1. Develop a High Trust Culture

  1. Keep commitments to homeowners, sales reps, employees, installers, technicians, vendors, and investors
  2. Close the loop – report back to each other
  3. Respect and empower one another
  4. Disagree constructively

2. Be Efficient

  1. Produce results that are worth more than they cost to deliver
  2. Obsessively reduce cycle times in every area
  3. Keep the sales and field experience simple (even if it means adding complexity elsewhere)
  4. Stay lean – eliminate unnecessary costs (even through periods of rapid growth)

3. Continuously Improve

  1. Gather data to make decisions
  2. Follow the Blue Raven six-step problem solving approach
  3. Try new things and fail quickly
  4. Be go-getters

 

Footnotes: 

[1] Total dollars saved depends on what you believe about future electricity prices. Based on historical averages in our markets, we project an average of 3.5% increases in utility prices per year. Over its lifetime, a Blue Raven Solar system saves an average of ~$40,000 in cost avoidance.

[2] Blue Raven Solar systems generate ~8,500 kilowatt hours per month; carbon emissions offset conversion calculated from https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator

 

 

AUTHOR: Skyler Johnston
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