In each edition of Business Leader Magazine, we profile a business that is currently experiencing exponential growth in a feature called Business Leader Magazine Fast-Track. For our latest edition, we featured Evergen Solar, the country’s fastest-growing solar and battery company.
Over the last few decades, business leaders have become increasingly aware of the impact they are having on the environment. This has led to a plethora of new ‘green’ energy companies, innovative technologies and a slow move away from the dependence on oil and natural gas.
Maidenhead-based Evergen Solar was founded in 2011 by Sukhbir Sidhu – a highly successful tech-focused entrepreneur – and his son Ricky has managed the business since 2015; expanding into air purification technology, as well as adding to its solar panel offerings.
As a result, the business has experienced a 143% increase in turnover in the last three years, to almost hit the £10m mark and over 25 members of staff.
So, how have they achieved this astronomical level of growth?
All suns blazing
According to Statista, at the end of 2019 Britain has the cumulative solar power capacity of 13,616 MW – placing it the seventh highest in the world. A decade earlier, that figure was just 27 MW.
This growth has undoubtedly helped the business.
Ricky comments: “When I set up Evergen, the biggest threat to humanity was GHG emissions (greenhouse gasses) and energy was the biggest contributor.
So, we made it our mission to reduce energy consumption in the built environment. We started out installing rooftop solar on homes and have gone on to installing solar batteries and energy management systems on commercial properties and public sector buildings.
“There are two sides to the business. ‘ENERGY’ – this involves installing systems to generate or save energy in buildings. And ‘Air Hygiene and Sanitization’ – this is a technology-led endeavour which began in 2016 and the company spends around 2% of revenue in R&D. Today, we provide solutions for protection against COVID-19.”
How to achieve exponential growth?
With such a crowded and emerging marketplace, it has made the company’s progress impressive – considering the rise in turnover. However, the growth trajectory has been the result of long-term work and planning.
One of the main contributing factors has been the change in position the UK government has had towards the sector.
Ricky said: “Since 2009 the UK solar industry has been driven by Feed In Tariff. From 2015 this was gradually reduced to zero on April 1 2019. This has caused significant consolidation in the industry, with thousands of companies going bust or getting out of solar.
“Evergen has continued to grow for a number of reasons. Whilst most others within the industry have retracted, we have continued to invest in our business, and we have seen the results of our funding – and so have our customers.
“In 2013, we started installing on commercial and public sector properties and this diversification has helped. Then, since 2015, we have been working with builders and developers. It can take 18-24 months for the project to complete, but when the developer moves on to a new project, they stay with us.
“Our ‘service excellence’ approach has paid off, as we are getting more referrals.”
And by leading the industry and creating an image of providing an elite service, Evergen have managed to eliminate the competition – and increase the number of customers they can supply.
As more companies get out of solar, the competition has reduced for the firm, which has led to them diversifying their portfolio.
Ricky said: “We have diversified into other areas like energy storage and this has accelerated our growth. Since 2018, we have been investing in developing new energy models and in 2019 invested 1.8% of our revenues in R&D. This is a huge investment for a small private company, but it provides growth and resilience.
“We are launching our new ‘social energy’ platform this year and will become the first and only ‘vertically integrated’ energy supplier in UK. We expect our growth to continue.
“In the end its about ROI – we have been able to demonstrate 7-8% return on investment on our solar and battery installation. Very few investments available today can offer this level of return at little to no risk.”
Shining bright in the solar sector
It is clear to see that a strong focus on customer satisfaction has been a key to success for Evergen.
Ricky talks more about this: “Our focus has always been the customer experience. We demand 100% customer sign off on every installation.
“This is the only way that we can consistently improve our business and we have seen the benefits of that.
“Evergen is accredited under the MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) – this is a compliance scheme very similar in scope to ISO9001. We are regulated under the FCA, accredited under the HIES scheme, and have a 5* rating with FEEFO. All this compliance and scrutiny adds to the workload but has given the company tremendous kudos and integrity.”
Despite the success the company has had, there have been tough times where Evergen have had to adapt to an ever-evolving market.
Ricky comments: “The biggest challenges have been managing the turbulence in consumer demand, which for years w as driven by sudden changes in government legislation around the Feed in Tariff. The pressure it puts on resources, cashflow, recruitment, stock and logistics is incredible. For example, last year, the installations carried out dropped by 96% in April when compared to the previous month.
“As a business you have to control your expenses to help get through difficult times when sales are down and out of your control. The only thing you can then control is your expenses, so working lean is what worked for us.”
And with more uncertainty facing the world of business and energy – caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – there may yet be the biggest challenge on the horizon. However, Ricky believes that both the company and wider industry will have an increased focus post-lockdown.
He said: “Whilst more and more people are aware and concerned about the environment, this is not a priority when investing in a solar/battery system. “However, post COVID-19, we expect the decision to invest in solar will be driven even more by ROI.
“The demand and uptake for solar and battery technology will only ever increase in terms of general trend, as costs of regular energy sources continue to rise. It’s more a matter of timing than anything else, when will the market get back to the new ‘norm’.
“I believe there is a great opportunity, and with new technologies being developed and deployed around grid share/peer-to-peer energy trading – it is a very exciting market to be involved in.”