In August 2017, CalCom Solar was named to the top 25 of the Inc. 5000 for the second year in a row. Dylan Dupre, CEO of Calcom Solar, shares lessons learned along the way to building a renewable energy company with a 9,675% growth rate.
Much has been written about following your passion. The idea that passion and purpose – not circumstance, not background, and certainly not money – can drive a person to succeed in life seems intuitive. But it’s surprising how few people put this theory into practice.
In that sense, I’m one of the lucky ones. I decided to follow my passion into the clean energy space not long after graduating from UC Berkeley. I knew I wanted to be involved in an industry that I was passionate about and that was doing good for the planet. I had traveled the world enough to see that sustainable development and renewable energy had the potential to improve the lives of millions of people suffering from pollution, poverty, hunger and lack of access to fresh water.
When I got home from my travels, I got a job at a solar energy company. It was an ideal opportunity to see a solar company grow from the ground up – and I learned a lot about how homeowners and businesses make the decision to go solar. I worked at SPG Solar for 10 years – eventually rising through the ranks of residential and commercial sales to become VP of Sales.
Farming the Sun With Solar Energy
In November 2014, I made the decision to work for CalCom Solar based in the Central Valley of California, to focus on a segment of the market I had learned desperately needed renewable energy solutions: the agriculture industry. I saw an inextricable link between agriculture, water and energy—and an increasing reliance of farmers on fossil fuel energy to grow our food.
This hasn’t always been the case. Before the industrial revolution, farmers relied on a sole energy source to grow food – the sun. Photosynthesis was the mechanism that grew plants, and plants fed livestock, creating fertilizer that further promoted plant growth.
Of course, photosynthesis still works today – we haven’t gotten so mechanized that plants grow themselves. But now, farmers rely on energy to fuel every other part of the food production process—from irrigation pumps to farm equipment to food processing and machine automation.
CalCom was founded to address the growing industrialization of agriculture – by providing energy solutions that harvest the sun to more sustainably power a farm’s electricity needs. In so doing, we are transforming the way we produce our food and building a more sustainable future. We’re enabling our customers to turn a liability – energy expenses – into a capital asset that generates savings and incremental revenue for years to come
Building a Triple Bottom Line Future
Sustainable development and renewable energy are good for the planet, good for people, and good for business. This is the triple bottom line – people, planet, and profits. Many companies are adopting the TBL approach to more fully measure their performance. Public companies like GE, Proctor & Gamble and 3M now report on all aspects of the TBL–from environmental to social to economic—and are saving money and operating more sustainably at the same time.
At CalCom, this is our purpose: saving our customers money by enabling them to operate sustainably. And that passion and purpose inform every decision we make as a company.
In It’s Not What You Sell: It’s What You Stand For, author and branding expert Roy Spence says, “Purpose doesn’t make decisions easy, it makes them clear.” When your organization’s purpose is clearly understood, it’s easier to make a choice between one direction and another.
Many leading companies today are making the decision to build a cleaner, brighter future by going solar. Target, Walmart, and Apple – three of the top corporate users of solar – are teaching the rest of corporate America that sustainability can be a core element of a brand’s purpose. Today, 2 percent of the U.S. population shops at a solar-powered Walmart – a company whose purpose, by the way, is not to make money, but to
Having a purpose-driven business isn’t the entire reason we rose to the top of the Inc 5000. Hiring good people and putting them in positions to succeed is another. As former Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously said: “it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” We work hard to create the right kind of culture – where talented people are empowered to find intelligent energy solutions.
We’re also on the front lines of technology – and seek the best innovations to solve our customers’ problems. Calcom was one of the first solar energy providers to capitalize on Net Energy Metering Aggregation (NEMA), generating millions in additional savings compared to non-NEMA projects, and is now quickly moving into solar + storage energy solutions to help our customers save money on demand charges and optimize energy use with load shifting and variable operating costs.
At the end of the day, our decision to focus relentlessly on our customers – and help them power their operations with clean energy—is the reason we’ve continued to thrive. We are proud to have made the top 25 of the Inc 5000 two years in a row, but awards and accolades aren’t the fuel that fires a business. For us, that’s the sun. And it’s not going away any time soon.