Arthur Souritzidis is the chief executive officer of Momentum Solar, one of the nation’s fastest-growing, privately held solar energy companies.
Arthur joined Momentum in 2010, became a partner in 2011, and then CEO in 2012. He quickly transformed Momentum from a local New Jersey business to a top tier national player. Momentum’s footprint servicing homeowners and business owners now expands into New York and Southern California, with plans for several additional territories earmarked for the near future.
Momentum Solar, which has grown to 550+ employees since its inception, was named on the 2016 Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies, and was one of Solar Power World’s Top 500 North American Solar Contractors. More recently, Arthur was recognized by Forbes as one of their “30 Under 30 Energy” entrepreneurs. According to Forbes, Arthur stood out as one of “The Best Minds Planning How to Power Our Country”.
A graduate of Montclair State University with a degree in finance, Arthur’s entrepreneurial spirit has been instrumental to Momentum’s rapid growth and the creation of advanced solutions in the clean energy sector. Arthur became a student of the industry, analyzing federal and state solar incentives and quickly identifying proprietary commercial financing solutions, which became the foundation for Momentum’s future success. Arthur believes in the importance of the green energy movement to boost the U.S. economy virtuously by not only creating jobs, but also by serving as a steward for the environment.
Tell me about your early career.
I actually haven’t had much of a career outside of solar; this company, specifically. I was exposed to the industry immediately after college. I had studied finance at Montclair University with the intention of working on Wall Street, but ended up graduating during the depths of the economic recession. The clean energy space, however, was showing growth during this time and it had always peaked my interest.
I ended up meeting Cameron Christensen who was the sole proprietor of a small solar company, and it was then when I identified an opportunity to help bring solar power to the mass market. I joined forces with Cameron and took over the sales process while he focused on operations. I became a student of the industry and helped engineer a profitable product within a few months. With evidence that my financial expertise was enhancing the business, I truly wanted to see the business takeoff, and ended up earning 50% ownership the following year. It’s been an upward climb since.
How did the concept for Momentum Solar come about?
Cameron started what is now Momentum Solar back in 2009, after moving to New Jersey from Utah. He had an extensive background in field operations with some experience in solar, and was literally handling everything from the sale to the permitting, design, engineering, installation and activation of every system he sold. He launched his business after a few years of installing, because he saw the economic opportunity in it.
I met him within that year, and together we established an operational process that remained lean for many years until we were in a financial position to expand the business. In early 2016, we started to steadily grow our workforce, rebranded, and launched Momentum Solar as you know it today. We went from a four-person company to a nationwide solar firm generating nine figures in revenue.
How was the first year in business?
The first twelve months were difficult, to say the least. My partner and I were in a perpetual state of biting off more than we can chew, and quickly learning how to chew it. All of the business’s equity is held among its partner base, which is a great blessing today, but it was cause for an agonizing first year. We fought to compile sales and marketing channels, operational capabilities, and installation capacity strictly with the cash that the business was generating organically.
Truth be told, I worked free for a couple of years. But with determination, inspiration of a better energy future, and careful selection of the right vendors and supply chain, we started seeing results.
What was your marketing strategy?
To be honest, at the time we didn’t really have one. We were reliant on networking and maintaining relationships to coordinate sales appointments. I had some experience in sales prior to solar, and a passion for the product. We depended on what we were selling, how we presented it to the potential customer, and word of mouth.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Our company growth was slow but steady, and eventually we found ourselves in the position to greatly increase our impact on both the environment and our customer base. Our management carefully established operational foundations to fine-tune our business process and position us as a notable solar company in a highly competitive industry. We made the decision to not grow on debt, but rather on previous profits to fuel future organic growth. This kept us grounded and determined to reach our goal. By the end of 2015, we had built a well-oiled machine with the ability to start investing more into sales, marketing, and experienced management. By the end of 2016, we were recognized as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation and a top solar contractor throughout North America.
How do you define success?
Success is about aspirations and setting goals to achieve, but it’s also about appreciating the journey to get there. You must always be consciously involved in the ongoing process of reaching your full potential. It’s important for me to be able to look myself in the mirror every day and have no regrets about the path I’ve chosen. When faced with hurdles, do not recognize failure, but rather persevere and have the motivation to keep going.
What is the key to success?
Success in business is about the right thoughts and the right team. Without having your head in the right place or conviction in your platform, you’ll have difficulty finding others to follow your vision. Positive thoughts are paramount, and passion resonates.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned was outside of the business directly. It’s the simple reality that you have to give in order to receive. There are so many ways you can give, whether it be your time or your money, but really I think it should be a component of both. In business, it’s about helping my employees achieve their goals. In life, it’s about helping the less fortunate. Maybe, it’s a different perspective but I really believe, in a way, that generosity is the key to success.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“If you see it in your head, you’ll hold it in your hand.”
What are some of your favorite books?
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill was really the foundation of my mental conditioning of which I attribute my success. It’s implied in the title, but the concepts of the book truly help you enforce the power of positive thinking.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
I will never forget this. It was my first year in the business, and a significant commercial project with an executed contract somehow slipped back into attorney review. The client’s attorney was dead set on killing the deal. We had already taken possession of the materials, spent all the money we had, and were in the early stages of the development of the product. The distributors were taking a chance on me and I was approved to borrow way more money than the business should have been eligible for. I felt like I had been gutted.
In the preceding weeks, there were times that I felt helpless, hopeless, and had to remind myself to have confidence in my goals. With hard work, diligence, perseverance, and perhaps all else, conviction, I would get through this. I remember driving by the project one day, gripping the steering wheel until my knuckles were white and visualizing that solar panels were on the roof of the property. From that moment, I set my anxiety aside and focused on solutions. Ultimately, we satisfied the attorneys and received the approvals to proceed. It was the hardest time I had ever been through in business and one of which I learned from. It led to one of the most gratifying victories of my career.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
The big picture. With every hurdle that comes with running a business, I am always determined to power through. I realized early in my career that business is largely a series of problems, and those who work hard to achieve a way to solve these problems are the ones who are successful. When you realize this pattern and formula, it’s inspiring as you become aware that there’s a differentiating component to what separates the good from the great — people who do well in life, and others who just skate by.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Eliminate doubt from your thought process. Success only exists in the absence of doubt. This is easier said than done, as doubt is an inherit character flaw that we all possess — but we can all overcome it with mental conditioning. When your steadfast convictions and confidence replaces doubt, you will have success. Consider your obstacles as stepping stones towards that success.
A technique that I have found to be helpful when a task felt overwhelming and that day-to-day seems impossible: Focus on your end goal. Have confidence in your goal and what you will achieve, even when you don’t know how to get there. Life has a way of engineering how to reach that goal.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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