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Solar Business Achieves Sustainable Growth in “Sunny” Seattle

In late 2012, Reeves Clippard was having a “crisis of confidence” in determining which direction to take his solar panel installation business. The co-founder and CEO of A&R Solar in Seattle had recently laid off several employees following a sharp increase in work – including winning a local contract to be preferred installers for the Solarize Washington program – and then a decline in work.

Clippard started his business after realizing he spent more time researching renewable energy than focusing on his unsatisfying IT job. He started small through bootstrapping efforts but quickly grew his team in three years.

“It was our first taste of growing too fast. We felt blindsided and were surprised why we didn’t see it coming,” Clippard said. “We knew we needed to get tools and metrics in place, and Emerging Leaders helped us make that happen.”

The SBA Emerging Leaders Initiative is a seven-month, executive education course for small business owners and executives whose business is on the brink of growth. The program provides the framework, tools and resources for business owners to work on their business rather than in their business.

Clippard began applying the knowledge he gleaned from the Emerging Leaders program which led to hiring six employees, developing specific roles and titles for other management members, and creating a strategic growth plan to accommodate the industry’s market fluctuation.

“Everything pointed to hiring the right staff,” Clippard said. “The Emerging Leaders class showed me we needed to rethink capacity, needed a consistent marketing effort, and needed more sales staff. We transitioned from focusing on delivering the work to pulling in more work and closing more deals.”

Since completing the Emerging Leaders program, A&R Solar has also paid back a loan and completed renovations on a new headquarters building in the Seattle SODO district. Plus, the company is involved with several green energy renovation projects through the state of Washington.

“Reeves is a classic entrepreneur and started the class identifying a few areas he needed help with. After creating his strategic plan, he realized he needed a whole new approach to his business and his leadership,” said Mary Marshall, SBA Emerging Leaders Seattle instructor. “As a result of his new direction, his company has exceeded projections and is on track for the most successful year yet.”

Clippard stated March 2014 is the most successful month in the company’s history with nearly $600,000 of jobs sold, which is almost as much the company’s annual sales in early years. A&R Solar is also “expecting tremendous growth and expansion in 2014.”

For more information about A&R Solar, visit www.a-rsolar.com.

For more information about the SBA Emerging Leaders Initiative, visit www.sba.gov/EmergingLeaders.