Arise Solar is a high-end residential and commercial solar electric company serving central California from its headquarters in Clovis, California. Arise designs, installs and maintains solar systems within 60 miles of Fresno, California, helping customers turn the state’s abundant sunshine into a renewable source of energy for both home and business.
While Glenn’s father-in-law wasn’t interested in solar technology, it had always piqued Glenn’s interest. “But I didn’t want to be a distributor; I actually wanted to install,” he says. Working in California under a Class B contractor’s license since 1986, Glenn’s specialty was spotting and repairing construction defects and he knew that his particular skill set could be a valuable asset in the burgeoning solar industry. “I was flabbergasted about how horrible the installations were; the PVC piping being used, the way they were making attachments — they were all roof leaks waiting to happen,” says Glenn.
Armed with his contractor’s license and a lot of startup capital from his father-in-law, Glenn spent the first six months of the venture learning everything he could about the industry, taking engineering classes along with hands-on training, before making his first sale in 2007. “It took a while,” he jokes.
Arise started off using American-made products and Glenn found that he could easily avoid the same installation mistakes made by other solar contractors in the area. Still, it took a while to break into the market and convince buyers that the initial investment was worthwhile. “I could show people how much money they could save, but at that time there were no decent leasing or financing options. I struggled for two, two-and-a-half years because of that,” says Glenn.
The big break came in 2009 when Glenn was subcontracted by Trinity Construction, which was contracted by SunPower Corporation to install 2,680 solar panels totaling 759 kilowatts of power at a Del Monte Foods facility in Kingsburg, California. Following the project, SunPower approached Glenn about becoming a dealer and suddenly he had an in with one of the nation’s leading solar panel manufactures. “I was then able to sell and finance the best product in the market and late 2009 was when our growth really started to take off,” he says. Today, Arise performs most installation work in-house, subbing out only trenching and the occasional main service panel electrical job, in order to ensure Arise quality standards.
Embracing the D.I.Y. ethos
SunPower’s panels are widely held to be some of the most efficient on the market, creating a greater opportunity for Arise’s clients to save even more money. “A normal 18-square-foot panel puts out about 280 kW, but SunPower has a 345-kW panel they can put in the same 18-square-foot space, so it’s a huge difference in output,” says Glenn.
Arise currently limits its scope of work to 50 to 60 miles around Fresno. However, with plans to move this winter and expand the company’s facility threefold, from 4,000 square feet to over 13,000, the new, larger facility will allow Arise to service a greater area along with launching its D.I.Y. educational program, Arise U. This new program will run courses on proper panel installation for ambitious homeowners once solar panels start popping up at big-box home stores. “That’s one of the reasons we’re moving into that facility,” says Glenn. “We’ll have different roofs they can practice on. If they end up wanting to do it themselves that’s great, if not, we can install it for them.”
The company has also launched an offshoot called Arise Solar Services to service all solar installations, whether they were installed by Arise or not. “That came out of continual requests we received to fix someone else’s system,” says Glenn. “Their systems were installed by competitors who wouldn’t help them or return their calls. We want to treat others as we would want to be treated so how could we not help them! Arise Solar is built to last so our clients and those we now service will be assured in knowing that 25 years down the road we will still be there to maintain all their solar needs.”
That commitment to doing things right the first time and continuing to serve clients throughout the life of the product is part of what Glenn calls “the Arise difference” and consists of three parts: doing it right the first time, treating others as you want to be treated and enjoying what you do. “That all stems from our tagline ‘Connecting You to a Higher Power,’” says Glenn. “The purpose of the company is really faith based; profit is not my highest priority. The main thing is trying to help employees and clients understand that there is a God out there that loves them, cares about them and wants the best for them.”
Glenn also credits Arise’s initial success and growth to the teachings of entrepreneur and nationally syndicated motivational speaker Dave Ramsey, with whom he took a weeklong seminar just as the company was hitting its growth 2011. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever participated in and it works,” says Glenn of Ramsey’s EntreLeadership seminar. “Basically I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel because what God says in the Bible is true and if you take those principles and implement them in your business, your momentum becomes unstoppable.”
Outshining the competition
At Arise, Glenn measures success largely through employee and customer satisfaction. “Our team member turnover is pretty low,” he says. This can be attributed to his concept of empowering his team members to take ownership of their roles and find unique solutions that help encourage a customer-first mentality. This unique take on business has gained them much respect among their clients, as Glenn states, “Another thing that excites me is the amount of positive reviews of us on social media.”
The company recently surpassed 1,000 residential clients and is looking to boost its team members by double through next year as the barriers to solar energy installation continue to fall. “We still do a lot of leasing and cash financing, but we have more and more clients who pay cash out of pocket. Fear of solar has really sort of gone away,” says Glenn.
While there are always new solar competitors, it’s not something Glenn spends too much time worrying about. “I believe the price value we offer and the referrals base we have really sets us apart,” he explains. “We don’t try to do business like everyone else and it’s a viable model that will allow for sustainability for a long time.”
With an innovative model, strong product line and the goal of supporting every aspect of solar panel installation from purchase and installation to service, Arise Solar has a bright future ahead under the California sun.