For the EVOLution of Business

Culture That Energizes Sustainable Growth with Kevin Schulte of GreenSpark Solar

Episode Summary

In 2017, GreenSpark Solar was named Rochester's fastest-growing company at the Chamber's "Top 100" Awards. The award calculates growth over a 3-year period and Kevin doesn't think it was a coincidence that the award came exactly 3 years after GreenSpark decided to pursue B corp certification: "From the time that we outwardly said that we were subscribed to a Triple Bottom Line, we grew over 600%...we believe that's absolutely linked." Kevin Schulte founded GreenSpark with his best friends in 2002 and was named CEO in 2008. He provides the leadership, vision and passion that drives the growth and success for the company. While Kevin’s leadership can be calculated in megawatts he would point to being named Rochester’s Top Workplace in 2017 as his highest professional accomplishment. Kevin’s vision of a creating a values-led, mission-driven company is contagious and resulted in not only the top workplace award, but also in receiving The Leadership Award from Rochester’s Top Workplaces – as voted upon by the entire team at GreenSpark. Tune in to this episode to get a look inside Kevin's mindset of relentless improvement, his advice to leaders beginning on the Conscious Leadership journey and lessons learned from B corp certification process.

Episode Notes

[2:00] Starting a wind energy company
[4:30] Pivoting when solar became more cost effective
[6:45] Breaking into the residential market
[8:30] Starting as friends in business, working to maintain the culture as they grow
[10:30] "We've just been really deliberate about finding people that we know are going to marry to our culture...we have been fairly successful in finding people that are passionate about our mission and our purpose and therefore they're going to work harder to be a part of it."
[12:00] Becoming Rochester's fastest growing company and also a B-Corp and Top Workplace
"From the time that we outwardly said that we were subscribed to a Triple Bottom Line, we grew over 600%...we believe that's absolutely linked"
[13:20] Employees applied for the Top Workplace award without Kevin ever knowing. Not only was Greenspark honored with the company award, but Kevin also won the "Leadership" award: "When you subscribe yourself to the concept of servant leadership and the elevating the people around you and not trying to elevate yourself in the midst of them, you just don't expect things like that."
[14:40] Kevin's conscious leadership journey - willingness to be a contrarian among peers in driving purpose over profit
[16:45] Selling solar on the economic advantages
[18:30] Deciding to become a B corp through "positive peer pressure" from the Amicus Solar Cooperative
[20:30] Formalizing processes and other lessons learned from B corp certification
[22:45] Advice for other leaders embarking on the Conscious Capitalism journey "We're imperfect, we're not good's that you desire to do better on behalf of your people, on behalf of your community that continues to drive us."
[24:00] Coming through hard times by refocusing on communication and recommitting to increased transparency
[24:45] How to get started on the journey? Measure yourself!
(Kevin's recommended measurement tool - "Quick Impact Assessment" through MeasureUp Finger Lakes)
[27:00] The importance of leaders getting feedback from your people
"I think about my parents and the concept to them of someone actually asking them 'Do you like your job' ... they didn't get that question. What was wrong with us? If people don't like their job, what do we think is going to motivate them? What do we think is going to drive them forward? As capitalists, as business owners, we should really ask that question because I think the return is that they work harder for the business and the business becomes more successful."
[28:30] Kevin's evolving leadership journey and focus on transparency
(Listen to the podcast episode with Bob Whipple, "The Trust Ambassador," to learn more about the concept of "radical candor")
[30:30] Measuring success at GreenSpark:
-Focus on stability (revenue, profits, etc) - "you can't provide people quality of life at their job if there's a constant stress on those things."
-Moving toward an employee-owned business
-Finding ways to better communicate and engage with their climate change mission
[35:30] Fighting the status quo by encouraging people to become conscious of a different way of doing things
[39:00] Putting purpose over profit in big strategic decisions and also in the small everyday decisions - "they become part of our DNA" - "If I can aid in any way in making your life better overall, our beliefs subscribe us to the fact that you'll do better as an employee of the company toward our products, our profits and our comes down to that simple level of decision-making process, you don't even think about it"
[41:45] Evolving the consciousness of business leaders to help tackle our most pressing challenges - being solutions-oriented, getting institutionalized into law
"As we recreate the economy of Rochester, which is an ongoing process, that we're doing it in the right way."
[47:15] Possibilities to help local farmers and the Rochester energy grid
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