Providing Reliable, Efficient Solar Power with Verengo Solar’s Randy Bishop
September 20, 2013
JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so excited to have on the line with us Randy Bishop. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Verengo Solar. Welcome to Green is Good, Randy. RANDY BISHOP: Hey. How are you doing, John? JOHN SHEGERIAN: I am awesome. I know we’re talking today. I’m in New York. You’re in beautiful, sunny LA but we were talking a little bit off the air about solar and how good it is to be in the solar industry right now and we’re so excited for you to come and share your story but before we get to the Verengo Solar story, I want to hear the Randy Bishop story. How did you become the co-founder and CEO of Verengo? What was your journey leading up to this and why? RANDY BISHOP: Sure, so I’m from LA, third generation. My partner is from here as well. We went to high school together actually. We grew up here, local boys, and we had always thought it would be fun to do something together. We kind of took different career paths. I went into business. I worked in Japan for a little bit. I worked in business, got an M.B.A. He was a lawyer and we both worked at companies that we liked a lot. I worked at Intuit and really learned a lot about how to build a great company and set the right culture and we both worked at places that were also not so great and you know, we talked about how it would be amazing if we could create a place that was our own where we could create the culture and that we were doing stuff that was great for customers and the timing was just right a couple years ago and we’ve looked out and people that we had worked with before said they would back us if we found a good company to run and we really were excited about the solar space. It was really just starting to take off in California and it was an amazing opportunity to, as we say, do good and do well, do a business that really helps the world and helps customers and also, a business that could be successful and so we set out and partnered up and now here we are, the largest residential specialist in the country right now. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, we’re so thankful for you coming on the show today because we love at this show, on Green is Good, to have wonderful people who are leaders with great brands doing great things and that is what you’re doing at Verengo Solar and I’m on your website. It’s a gorgeous website. For our listeners out there that want to join along while we talk with Randy, it’s www.verengosolar.com and his phone number to interact with the company and to get solar on your house is 1-800-856-6900. Randy, you know, you started the company. It’s 2008, 2009. Now we’re in 2013. The journey has gone on. It’s a good time. The sustainability movement is really moving here and it’s picking up velocity in the United States thankfully. How many homes in America are eligible for solar? What’s your universe as a business guy and you think about the dream of Verengo and how much penetration can you get? How big is the universe for you here in this great country? RANDY BISHOP: Gee, John, that’s a great question and a tough one to answer because what’s going on in our industry is the costs of solar keep coming down all the time. The financing are coming down. The costs of materials are coming down and the costs of electricity are going up everywhere so utilities keep raising their rates, which means, as electricity goes up and solar gets cheaper, more and more houses come online every month basically so there’s already millions in California and millions in New York that are eligible and that have programs and there’s more and more programs coming on all the time so we just see this incredible market. We grew 100% a year for a couple years in a row. Last year, the whole industry grew 70% and it’s just continuing with that growth. It’s incredibly exciting and it’s creating a ton of jobs. There’s over 100,000 solar jobs in America now. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, I’m a homeowner in California and I’m thinking about cost, but I’m also thinking about the environment and I’m thinking about my kids’ future but I want to do the right thing and I want to hire Verengo to put solar on my house. Just the back of the envelope, what’s the proposition, Randy? What’s the return on investment if I write your company a check or do I get subsidies or how does this even work? Because I’m 50 years old and I’m sort of even ignorant to this process myself. RANDY BISHOP: Yeah, that’s pretty normal. Most people have heard a little bit about it but just don’t really understand how it works. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Walk us through it. RANDY BISHOP: Yeah, so there’s two main ways that people get solar. One is they just buy it outright themselves and if you do that, you’re typically looking at an after tax savings of 10 to 15% a year for your investment so your investment depends on how much electricity you use. It could be 10,000. It could be 20,000. Think of it like a bond and your payments are the electricity that you save that you pay with after tax dollars so most people, when they find out, if they’ve got the money, which most people don’t in today’s world, but if they do and they see hey, I could put this in the stock market or I could buy a bond that’s getting 2, 3%, or I could get an after tax return of 10 or 15% a year, they get pretty excited about that but the reality is most people don’t have that money to get started and so there’s another financing development that’s really helped the market explode and that’s where someone else owns the panels and they just sell the electricity that the panels produce to the homeowner so the homeowner doesn’t pay anything out of pocket but what they get is they get a little bit of a cheaper rate on the electricity than they’re paying right now for their utility and more importantly, they also get predictability and control over their utility bill. Right now, if you don’t have solar, you have no idea what your utility bill is going to be next year. It could go down a little bit but that doesn’t really happen. More than likely, it will go up and what we’d like to talk to our customers about is it’s like you have an ARM. an Adjustable Rate Mortgage, for your electricity and you have no control over how that’s going to go up every year and so we have a lot of customers on fixed income and they can control what their mortgage payments are and they control all kinds of expenses in their home but they can’t control what their electricity rates are and so what we do is we say, ‘Hey, we’re going to take that electricity and we’re going to sell it to you at a fixed rate, less than what you’re paying today, and we’re going to also allow you to know what that’s going to be for next year or the year after or the next 20 years. You have your rate guaranteed for the next 20 years,’ and now that homeowner has control and predictability and for all our customers but especially people that are on a fixed income, that’s an incredibly powerful alternative that they just haven’t had in the past. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What’s the net though of how much money do they have to put down on the leasing basis to get Verengo Solar? RANDY BISHOP: Yeah, so that’s a great thing. Every home is different, but almost all of the homes that we do basically qualify for zero down, so the customer has nothing out of pocket and they start saving the first month that the solar is on the roof so we talk all the time about this being a no-brainer and the main skepticism that we get back from people is that this is just too good to be true and they don’t believe it and then when we show the numbers and the testimonials and 97% of our friends and family refer us to their friends and family, they start to believe and that’s why we’re growing so fast. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, people can go solar for zero down? RANDY BISHOP: All the time. It happens every day. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, talk about the installation process. A lot of people, myself included, we don’t want a lot of folks in our house all the time and creating disruption for the family and people that we don’t particularly know. Does the installation process take a week, two weeks? Does it take a day? How long is the installation process if I were to get Verengo to put solar on my house? RANDY BISHOP: The great thing about this is again, technology has gotten better. Products have gotten better. Companies have gotten better at what they do. We’ve installed in over 8,000 homes now. We know what we’re doing. The actual install at your home, 75% of the jobs that we do are done in one day. We go out there. We show up at 8:00 in the morning. By 3:00, the inverter’s on the wall, the solar panels on the roof, and our guys are going home. Now, the whole process takes longer because we’ve gotta deal with cities and utilities and they all have to sign off and turn everything on, but the actual disruption to you and your family is minimal. It’s one day of work, maybe two in a few cases if you’re getting a bigger system, but it’s very minimal. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it. When we hear about all the news. China is always a headline in news if their economy is going up and down and stuff like that and if you were to believe the media, they say China’s production of solar panels has hurt our American job market. What do you see? You’re right in the middle. This is your industry and your business and you’re one of the leaders of this whole industry. How has really China affected solar in this country and where is that going in that interrelationship? RANDY BISHOP: Sure, so that’s a tricky issue. That’s been really tough in our industry and been very divisive actually but the reality is what has happened is the Chinese have brought the cost down of solar panels for everyone so now, the Koreans, the Japanese, the Europeans, even the American companies are selling solar for less. They’ve forced everyone to innovate. They’ve forced the cost curves down and the reality is the majority of jobs in solar are not on the manufacturing side. They are in companies like ours. We have nearly a thousand American jobs. We don’t have a single job overseas. We have nearly a thousand American jobs that have all been created the last couple years as a result of the growth of this industry here and the growth of this industry has happened a lot because of those costs coming down so the U.S. government has put some tariffs in on the Chinese panels. The playing field is level now. The Europeans are putting some tariffs on the Chinese as well and right now, really, what we’re trying to focus on is just continuing to grow the business here and create these great jobs that we have. We have construction jobs, jobs that virtually wiped off the map a couple years ago, electrician jobs, roofer jobs, all kinds of blue-collar jobs. We’ve created hundreds of those jobs as a result of the growth of the industry, which ultimately is what it should be about and that’s what we think is a great thing. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You know, your mission statement is do good, do well. You said it at the top of the show. Every day, you get to live that. Can you explain your company’s values so when people engage your company and they go to your great website, VerengoSolar.com, or they call the number, 1-800-856-6900, why should they be supporting a great company like yours in terms of your mission statement, do good, do well, and why are your values aligned with what America really wants to support? RANDY BISHOP: Again, a great question, John. As I mentioned before, 97% of our customers would refer us to friends and family and that’s what we really like to hang our hat on. We’re ultimately in the home improvement industry and our industry doesn’t always have the best reputation for trust and for doing what we say we’re going to do and it’s really important to us to do that. If we say we’re going to show up at eight o’clock in the morning, we’re there at eight o’clock in the morning. If we say we’re going to call you back tomorrow and give you an answer on something, we’re going to call you back tomorrow and give you an answer on something and so as we built the company, it just became clear to us that that trust was really the foundation of everything that we needed to do and so our values are all around trust and the do good and do well is part of that. That’s responsibility for us and when we looked at the industry here, because we were starting out, you had a lot of people that were interested in either half of that equation. You had a lot of people who had been trying to do solar and were really passionate about doing good in the world but they didn’t really have the business skills to make it work and so you had a lot of frustrated customers as a result of that and then you had a bunch of people that as the business opportunity got to be good, they didn’t really care about doing good. They just wanted to do well and they came in but their soul wasn’t in it. they didn’t have that passion for making the world a better place and what our employees love about working for us, what I think our customers love when we’re out there is we try to marry the two together. We love what we do. We build trust with out customers. We deliver this great solution. We built a really successful business around it but we are making the world a better place. We’re saving our customers money. We’re eliminating fossil fuels and doing the equivalent of planting trees or taking cars off the road and our employees, it makes such a big difference for them when they get out of bed every day and come to work and so that’s what it’s about for us. we build trust with customers and we want to do good and do well and it’s pretty simple at the end of the day but it’s simple to day, I guess. It’s hard to do and we put a lot of work into making sure that we can make it happen. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Randy, unfortunately, we’re down to the last half-minute or so. Founders of Solar City came on a couple years ago. They recently went public. They’re fabulously successful in terms of stock markets and stuff like that? What’s your vision? Where are you going? Are you going public or what’s your vision for Verengo Solar? RANDY BISHOP: Yeah, so I think it’s premature to think about that for us. We’re just really still focused. We’ve been profitable for a couple of years here. We want to keep growing a successful business, growing our business in the right way, making customers happy, and we’ll look at our options as they develop but right now, it’s all about just building a successful company and luckily, we’re on a great path to do that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Well, for our listeners out there, I want you to support Randy’s great company, www.verengosolar.com. You can go solar for zero down. You just have to call 1-800-856-6900. Randy Bishop, you are a solar superstar and truly living proof that green is good. RANDY BISHOP: Thanks, John.