With the death of Steve Jobs happening less than 24 hours ago, I wanted to pay my respects from the renewable energy industry. There are many lessons to be learned from his life that can easily be applied to the renewable energy industry. I found a great article in my searches this morning that says just that: Solar Fred's 5 Lessons Solar Companies Can Learn from Steve Jobs and Apple, go check it out!
The first lesson Solar Fred talks about is "Innovate and Take Risks". In 1984, when Microsoft was dominate in the market of personal computers, Steve Jobs and Steve Woziak introduced the first Macintosh in an ad campaign launched at the Super Bowl. Apple stated "So what? We can do personal computing better and profit." The risk in the end paid off by innovations to the technology and computing industry that Apple made.
Renewable energies such as solar and wind power are one in the same. To create a great product one must continually improve the product one already has, and this takes thinking outside the box. And not only the product aspect has to change, but also the way one gets the product out there in front of customers. Everything has to change. This is a risk, but the rewards in the end can be great.
The second lesson talked about is "Cheap doesn't necessarily mean success and profits". With the high costs of renewable energy, cheaping out the product will not create success and profits quickly. Apple is not the cheapest product on the market, but I know a lot of people who still have their iPhone 2 years later and are completely happy with it, and they still work. Apple computers are the same way. The old saying "you get what you pay for" definitely comes into play in the technology and renewable energy industry alike.
The third lesson is "Failure is part of the journey to success". Failure is a part of life and learning from failures is what makes a company or person successful. If a way of doing something doesn't work, look at it from a different angle, change it and try again. Do this over and over until you find what works and become successful at that. Apple did just that in the 1990's. Solar Fred makes two great points here, points that are often forgotten. Success doesn't happen over night and unique visions and creativity often fail, but courage and hard work allows for recovery and the ability to try again.
Lesson 4 is "Simplicity, design and customer service". Mac products worked like they said they would work and had the customer service there to support you for any issues that were had. PC's are the complete opposite with long startup times, crashes, and complications along the way when completing simple tasks.
Simplicity is key to make a user friendly product. Eliminating steps from sales to installation makes a product more enticing to the end user because there is less work to do and the benefits are visible much faster. Designing products to meet the simplicity factor will increase revenue and having the customer service to back it up will make people want to use your product and tell others about it stronger. This may cost more, but going the extra mile will pay off in the end.
The final less Solar Fred talks about is "Perhaps you are not just a solar company after all". Just because you started producing one product doesn't mean that has to define all that you are over time. Apple recently dropped "computers" from its official name brand as they didn't want to be seen just as a computer company, but as a company for many different types of electronics. Because of the multitude of platforms available by Apple and many other companies, a lot of businesses are being transformed.
Companies are merging to create new products, and in the end, create new companies. This is great news for any industry as the companies aren't just stuck in a single category. These mergers allow for new business and expansion of product lines. Even here at SEPCO we recently came together with Hubbell Lighting and their partner companies to offer a higher quality LED option for our customers. Are we still a solar lighting company? Yes, but we can offer our customers more options because of this change.
Solar Fred offers a great idea in the end. Learn more about the companies that you deal with such as Apple by going to a retailer, play with the product, and talk to the experts about it. There is a lot to be learned by reaching out. Same goes for renewable energy. If you are looking to add solar to your home or business, talk to others who have already done this. You can find them just by driving around. Go to a solar business and talk to the people there. Research online, information is at your fingertips. Look for not just what companies do, but how they do things and why they do it that way.
I love Solar Fred's last statement: "To me, it’s just another way to UnThink Solar."