Henry Schuck – Co-Founder & CEO, DiscoverOrg

Henry Schuck is a leading entrepreneur in sales intelligence and lead generation. Having founded DiscoverOrg in 2007 when he was 23, he has led the company on a rapid-growth path, with investments from the likes of TA Associates, Goldman Sachs BDC, FiveW Capital and NXT Capital.

Under Henry’s leadership, DiscoverOrg built the industry’s most accurate, highest-quality contact database, through a mix of technology and a team of live researchers who continually call into thousands of IT, marketing, HR, and finance departments. DiscoverOrg was recognized for the quality of its datasets with both a Stevie® and a CODIE award. It was also named a leader and ranked #1 in customer service by G2 Crowd.

Before founding DiscoverOrg, Henry managed marketing and research at iProfile, leading the company to a successful private equity sale.

He is a cum laude graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where he was selected in 2013 as the Honors College Alumni of the Year. He also holds a juris doctorate degree cum laude from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and has studied comparative law at Oxford University. He is a licensed attorney in Washington and Nevada.

Tell me about your early career.
Just before co-founding DiscoverOrg—and during, actually—I was in law school at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State and worked as a clerk at a small law firm in Columbus. I enjoyed the law and the work, but the entrepreneur inside of me seemed to know I was destined for something else.

Before law school, I had already started a successful promotions company in Las Vegas. We recruited people to go to nightclubs, and ultimately had 35 employees. I sold the business because I had made the decision to go to law school.

Also, before law school, I managed research and marketing at iProfile, a company that did a piece of what DiscoverOrg does. DiscoverOrg acquired iProfile in 2015.

How did the concept for DiscoverOrg come about?
I was doing well in law school when a friend from college called me and asked if I would help him start a company. I told him no. Then, he bugged me for three weeks and convinced me to “help” him start the business. Within a couple of months, I had moved my entire law school schedule to evening classes, kicked a roommate out of our law school apartment, and put all of my eggs in the DiscoverOrg basket.

The time I spent at iProfile analyzing data was instrumental in my seeing the value in co-founding DiscoverOrg. I saw a business model that would work, despite the fact that iProfile was more of a lifestyle business than a growth business.

How was the first year in business?
In the first year, everything is a must win. You operate in that period with the most amount of ingenuity. You simply have to figure things out. You’re up against the wall and you learn that necessity is the mother of invention. You’re learning the most and coming up with new ideas. It’s when you’re being the most clever and applying the most ingenuity. I still find it interesting that the messaging on our first website isn’t that different than what we have now. Our entire business revolves around our ability to deliver the highest quality data in the market.

What was your marketing strategy?
We were heavy email marketers. We built our own database of names of people at good fit companies and we emailed them sales messages. We have a product that we can easily share samples over the internet, so we would always include samples so prospects could see what they were going to get. Then, we would set up online demos with them.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Year 1: $110,000
Year 2: $330,000
Year 3: $880,000
Year 4: $2,700,000
Year 5: $ 5,500,000
Year 6: $15.300,000
Year 10: $71,000,000 in annual, recurring revenue

So, not a rocketship, but we sustained slow, steady growth. When I came out of law school and was able to focus all of my time on the business, it really picked up.

How do you define success?
The best way to define it is that it’s something you’re constantly redefining. It’s a constantly-moving target. Every CEO is whacking some mole. The moles I’m whacking today are much different than a few years ago. At each stage they feel important, but when you look back, they don’t seem as important today as they did then.

What is the key to success?
To believe completely and unerringly in yourself, your team, and your product. And to work harder than everyone else.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
There are a few. First, when we were a $10 million company, we met with some potential funders—and I assumed they would want to bring in a new CEO—maybe someone who was out of their 20s. However, they saw the wisdom in having me remain as CEO. You have to believe you’re going to be successful running this company. Unless you believe it, no one else will either. I have a special set of skills that relate to this company. Unless you believe it, people will try to take it from you.

Second, I am an attorney, with no regrets about not practicing. Even when I was thinking about being an attorney, it was very entrepreneurial bent. My wife and I never talked about it, but she believed it would be something bigger than a big law firm job from day one. She believed in it as much as I did.

Thirdly, finding the right people is the most important thing you can do. We got really lucky and hired some great, core people from the beginning who got us to where we are today.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Hard work regularly beats out talent.”
“The fourth paragraph in your email sucks; pick up the phone.”
“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere, you must run twice as fast as that” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

What are some of your favorite books?
The Hard Thing about Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell
Playing for Pizza – John Grisham

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
One of the hardest times was when we were fundraising. A venture firm cut our valuation in half and asked us to sign, but we walked away because we believed in ourselves and that our company was worth much more. Eight months later, we were worth 15x the valuation. This was around five years in. The lesson we learned, and have always stuck with, is that when you believe in yourself, you can’t be disillusioned by those who don’t.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
We’ve had a lot of challenges over the past ten years. When you’re growing, it means you’re doing something well, and it allows you to keep growing. But what you’re good at today may not be as important in a year or two from now. The CEO I am today wouldn’t have been effective two years ago, and won’t be effective two years from now.

Remember that there will be enough naysayers around when you start your business. Make sure you have a core group of people around you who will support your idea.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
1. Hard work is a great equalizer. Work harder than you could ever imagine working. Someone else might have more money, more employees, or might be smarter, but if you work harder than everyone else in the room, you’ll succeed.

2. You are the only barrier to success. When I was growing up, I assumed I’d be really successful. At the same time, I operated with a sense of paranoia about doing the wrong things that would cause a company to fail. I was ultra-cautious about doing the right things and believed wholeheartedly that if I did these things, I would be successful.

3. Don’t pat yourself on the back too hard. Don’t pop the champagne bottles and congratulate yourself. It’s too easy to get complacent with success.

4. Get good, and fast, at recognizing when things go wrong. Analyze what happened, then go back to the drawing board and ask why you made the mistake. We have a post-mortem on anything and everything. The most important thing you can do is figure out, “How can we never make this mistake again?” And when we win a big deal, we do the same thing.

5. Know that every company, even those that make what they do look easy, is a bit chaotic and frenzied. You’ll always be putting out fires and whacking moles.

Tenko Nikolov – CEO & Managing Partner, SiteGround

Tenko Nikolov is the CEO and Managing Partner at SiteGround, a leading web hosting company that hosts more than 700,000 domains. Tenko has been obsessed with technologies from an early age. Although he has a law degree, his path and interests led him to SiteGround where he’s focused on growing the company and strengthening its position as one of the top web hosting providers worldwide. Along with SiteGround, some of Tenko’s passions include tennis, photography, fast cars, and anything Star Wars-related.

Tell me about your early career.
My interest in technology started well before I was even thinking about a career. When I was around seven years old, my granddad bought me my first computer and I was fascinated by it, as well as the technology behind it. I was so impressed that I started spending, literally, all of my days exploring it. That stuck with me and I continued to develop my tech skills throughout the years, parallel to my studies. Even though I studied law and I come from a family of lawyers, my heart has always been in technology and computers.

My professional career started two months before my first day of college. I started looking for a job, ever since I was accepted, because I wanted to combine both studying and working. The first job I had was as a technical support agent at an Internet service provider. It was suitable for me, at that time, because I had night shifts which allowed me to attend classes regularly. My first contact with SiteGround was during my second year of law school. I joined the company as an employee several months after it was created. Now, thirteen years later, I’m glad I made that decision.

How did the concept for SiteGround come about?
The company was founded in 2004 by my partner, Ivo Tzenov, and a few of his friends from college. After one summer job abroad, they all decided to start their own business and build their own company the way they wanted it, doing something they enjoy with the people they liked. Somehow, they got the idea that it was very easy to create a web hosting company. With an adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit, they went for it, and started SiteGround from their dorm rooms. I joined the team a little later and I really liked their enthusiasm. Surely, it turned out that managing a hosting business is far from easy.

How was the first year in business?
Within the first year, we were focused on building the product itself. We were a team of no more than ten people, and we had tens of thousands of competitors. In order to stand out from the rest, we had to find our unique differentiator. There were three things we truly believed in from the beginning and they ended up incorporated in our company DNA: 1) building everything in-house, 2) being innovative, and 3) doing it all with care and attention, for our team, clients, and our partners. We stuck to these values and two years later, SiteGround became a recognized leader in the hosting sector.

What was your marketing strategy?
We try to take the unbeaten path in everything we do. We were one of the first in our field to start leveraging smart SEO and content marketing tactics before they became popular. While most competitors were optimizing their sites for the common keywords (hosting, web hosting, etc.), we started building separate pages for each solution we provided. This helped us gain a large amount of organic sign-ups which was extremely valuable during the early days of our business, when landing pages were not even a thing yet.

The next big jump was when we focused on boosting content marketing. Ten years ago, we began writing helpful, free content for anything hosting-related. We started producing website templates, guides, tutorials and webinars with industry leaders. Back then, almost no company was paying attention to content, and it helped us gain a following and convert at a rate far better than the competition.

Today, on top of all of the above, we concentrate on supporting open source software communities. We attend, sponsor, and speak at various events worldwide. Each year, we visit around eighty events and we have a dedicated team working only on organizing and preparing for them. I think events are an excellent way to connect and engage with communities and like-minded professionals, and build a long-lasting relationship with clients and partners.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
In 2004, when SiteGround was founded, we had no more than ten people on the team and we offered only one hosting plan, and at the end of the year, we had around 1,500 orders total. Over the next year, we began working on new solutions, offering more hosting plans and services to clients. In 2006, we continued to expand our services by developing custom-made solutions for WordPress, Mambo, and later on, Joomla. In the next year or two, we grew steadily, while investing in SEO marketing and we even got a Google PageRank of 9. I don’t believe any other hosting company has managed to do that, even to this day. Today, we are a team of more than 400 people in thirteen countries who work either remotely or from one of SiteGround’s four offices. We host over 700,000 domains and are entering a new, local market every two years (Spain in 2015, Italy in 2017). We’ll continue to explore new regions in the future.

How do you define success?
I think the best way to define success is by measuring how happy the people are around you. And by that, I mean family, friends, and colleagues. From a business perspective, success is best measured by clients’ satisfaction and the value you provide them. I’m extremely proud that every year, SiteGround has over 96% client satisfaction rate.

What is the key to success?
I believe SiteGround’s success is the quality of our services. We have literally turned hosting and infrastructure into our craft and we are constantly improving our services. I keep meeting clients at events who have been hosting with us for over ten years. Actually, a lot of the people we meet at events now are already our clients and they come to our booth just to tell us how happy they are with our company. To me, this means we keep doing things right, thirteen years on.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
One of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned is that you should pursue and do what you are most passionate about. When you love what you do and you are persistent enough, it really shows and makes a difference for your clients and the people you work with.

What are some quotes that you live by?
Some beliefs that I try to live by are:
“Hard work never hurts.”
“Dream big and never give up.”
“Never take yourself too seriously.”

What are some of your favorite books?
Contrary to common trends, I actually don’t enjoy reading entrepreneurial and business books. Since my free time is scarce, I do whatever I can to take my mind off work, whenever I get the chance. I find this actually prepares me for work far more efficiently. I am an avid reader of techno-thrillers. My favorite author is Michael Crichton, and some of my favorite books are Next and Airframe. Lately, I listen to a lot of audiobooks, since I have a lot of free time during my daily commute.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Unpredictable, hard situations are something we encounter all the time as the business grows. Back when the SiteGround team was starting in the hosting business, there was no textbook about building successful businesses online. We were building an airplane, while flying. But even though we work in tech, the hardest decisions are always about people. So, if you think computers are hard, wait until you start managing a large, international team. Human interaction and connection is still underlying everything we do, and rightfully so.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Overall, I’m a very optimistic person and I enjoy solving problems. But, when faced with adversity, the one thing that keeps me going is my family and the people I surround myself with, the SiteGround team included. They support me in all I do and are my biggest inspiration.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with people smarter than you and aim at goals which others perceive as impossible.

Bettina Hein – Founder & CEO, Pixability

Bettina Hein placed her bets on YouTube in 2008, when she founded Pixability to help marketers succeed on the platform. As the market matured, and the video advertising ecosystem continued its rapid evolution, Hein and her executive team had the foresight to expand Pixability’s core technology beyond just YouTube. As walled gardens Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter aggressively joined the race for digital ad dollars, rolling out new video ad formats and offerings, Pixability was ready to serve its brand and agency customers with a cross-platform advertising technology solution. Today, Pixability’s video ad buying solution enables marketers to plan, execute, and report on campaigns across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.

Tell me about your early career.
The first company I founded was SVOX AG, a speech software company, which was sold to Nuance Communications for $125 million. SVOX’s text-to-speech software can now be found in all Android phones. It is in the hands of over 1 billion people today. After receiving my Master of Science at MIT, I quickly realized there was a significant business opportunity around video. So in 2008, I founded Pixability to simplify digital video.

How did the concept for Pixability come about?
I had always been inspired by video, ever since seeing how the medium captured my grandmother’s personality, spirit, and passion. Then in 2008, bandwidth and equipment costs were plunging as the digital media world geared up to embrace online video. I sensed that this medium would disrupt how we consumed the moving image, and that an entirely new online video industry would be created.

How was the first year in business?
Pixability launched as a video editing company in 2008, right around the time the financial world was going up in flames. When nobody is buying your product, it’s a good sign that it’s time to pivot. So, Pixability became a video marketing company. We’ve evolved and refined our business model several times since, but video is and always was the center of our business.

What was your marketing strategy?
The most important strategy, not just in marketing, but also entrepreneurship in general, is to keep conducting experiments and double down on what is working. For Pixability, we’ve found that creating content that shows our thought leadership works best. For example, I co-authored a book on video, Video Marketing for Dummies, and our team regularly produces in-depth studies on social video, containing valuable insights on beauty, auto, and other industries.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
My benchmark is to double revenue every year, at least. For most of the years that it’s been around, Pixability has been able to do that. In fact, we’ve been able to more than double our revenue every year for the past five years.

How do you define success?
My goal as an entrepreneur was always to create jobs and provide for my employees. When I set out to become an entrepreneur, my target was to, together with my husband (who is our CTO), create 5,000 jobs. We’re at about 800 now by my estimates, and we’ll get there with some hard work and determination.

What is the key to success?
The key to success as an entrepreneur isn’t actually getting it right the first time around. At least, not completely. Entrepreneurs should instead choose a large and growing market that will allow their business to evolve and iterate until you get it right.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Looking back, I probably should have raised more money, more quickly. Also, with both of the companies that I’ve founded, I found that I was a little early to the market and had to wait for it to evolve. I always resolve to time the market better, where I can.

What are some of your favorite books?
One of my favorite books is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I recommend it to everyone who’s thinking about diving into entrepreneurship. It really unpacks how we make decisions, and shows how biases influence our everyday life. It’s immensely helpful for not only business, but also life in general.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
My toughest day as an entrepreneur was in the fall of 2003 when the founding team of SVOX had to make the decision to lay off 50% of our team of 22. Taking people’s livelihoods away is the hardest thing, professionally, that I’ve ever had to do. We later rebuilt to 140 people, so I feel that we’ve redeemed ourselves and created even more jobs. The lesson for me was that you sometimes have to make really hard decisions that hurt in the moment but help a company thrive in the long run.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I relish challenges so when the going gets tough, I am motivated to rally my team. When we work together, we can solve anything, and that has proven true, time and again.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs need three things: naivité, chutzpah, and perseverance. Successful entrepreneurs are determined, and they develop and stick to a plan that prepares them for the challenges to their business. But, they also need to stay flexible, looking ahead to adapt to changing markets.

Paul Weinert – Founder & Principal, GRAYBOX

Paul Weinert has been working with companies to develop their digital strategies for over a decade. Before founding GRAYBOX in 2009, Paul enjoyed a successful career as a user interface designer and eCommerce business consultant. He has helped businesses use digital technologies to increase revenue, streamline operations, and present themselves better, including personally overseeing the launch of 100s of websites and apps.

Paul graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Science in journalism in 2006, with minors in computer science, political science, and public speaking. Paul is married to his delightful wife, Lydia, and has two amazing and energetic, young sons: Aaron and August.

Tell me about your early career.
I started my career as a writer, photographer and graphic designer for a newspaper. I was really into page layout and found myself working for various agencies as a freelance graphic designer in college. At one of them, they said they didn’t need a print designer, but they needed someone who could code websites, so I started doing that. I’ve always been a tech nerd and had grown up coding, building computers and helping others with technology problems, so I started designing and building websites as well.

After college, I moved from web design to user interface design, focusing more on the business and how a digital system can solve business problems than on the look and feel of the site or application. I started working at an Internet business consulting at a firm near Seattle and lead their UX, eCommerce and marketing practices for around five years.

How did the concept for GRAYBOX come about?
The company we are today is very different than when we first started. I call them GRAYBOX 1.0 and GRAYBOX 2.0.

For GRAYBOX 1.0, I started the company right at the start of the recession (early 2009) as a way to combine all the super talented and out-of-work marketers, designers and developers that I was meeting all over Portland and Seattle. I figured that if I could get everyone to come together to form a collaborative network that I called GRAYBOX, we could compete with other full-service agencies by providing a better product at a lower cost than everyone else. Basically, using the supply-side excess of the recession to create a competitive advantage.

This worked great for four years, then the recession started getting better in 2012, so I saw my network decimated by everyone taking full-time gigs at the agencies and companies that were hiring up for marketing again. As such, I had to pivot to GRAYBOX 2.0.

This next phase has been us moving into more of a traditional firm model. We have staff and we work with our client partners to solve business problems with digital solutions in both the marketing and operational sides of their businesses. Since we pivoted, our growth has just exploded and we’re in our fifth year of this model.

How was the first year in business?
Rocky. It was hard to get people to talk to me too, so it was all about taking a scrappy approach to finding work, a lot of blind RFP responses, and investing in our long-term marketing presentation. Turns out that focusing on our marketing presentation was a great bet, as we were able to appear larger than we were and had great SEO placement pretty early on.

What was your marketing strategy?
Be everywhere online and track everything.

If you searched for websites or digital marketing, we were there. I was in every company directory, every ad placement or online marketplace I could find. I then tracked EVERYTHING with a granular tagging structure, so I could tie it back to lead volume, lead scoring, and my sales close rate. Everything was a test, and I was ruthless about paring back with what was non-performing and doubling down on what was working well.

For example, when I started using AdWords, I initially paid for 650,000 different keyword combinations, and I was committed to eliminating at least the bottom 50% of them, based on their performance each month. Within a year, we were bidding on only the best 150 best terms. Today, as we’ve expanded our practice, we bid on around 100 terms, but it remains very results-focused.

The best marketing strategy, to me, is one that is measurable and consistently produces effective results.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
It was fairly small throughout all of GRAYBOX 1.0. I was the only employee and I did all of the sales, account and project management.

Then, with the shift to hiring employees and operating under a more traditional model, we starting growing very quickly. In the last five years, we’ve grown around 181% annually by headcount, and more than that by top line revenue.

Our first office was 120 square feet. and I had to break my six month lease on that space because we outgrew it so quickly. We had one desk and three of us shared it, and whoever was the last person in, sat on the couch.

Our second office was 900 square feet, and it felt gigantic. We had our own meeting room and I had a private office for a few months. Again, we had to move out of that after eighteen months (breaking another lease) because of our growth.

Our third office was 3,200 square feet, and it felt so luxurious. We had multiple meeting rooms and private offices, but by the time we left two years later, all of the offices were gone because we needed them for meeting spaces, and there was always a queue for the restrooms.

Our current office is massive at 11,000 square feet, and we’ve built it out for 85 people. Currently, we’re at 47, so we expect to be here for a few more years.

How do you define success?
I think a lot about balance and health, lately. I think our success is directly tied to the health of our client partners’ businesses and how our work contributes to that. That’s first and foremost.

In addition, we want our team to live balanced lives and to achieve success in a way that’s good for everyone involved — partners need a great product and experience, staff needs to feel empowered, challenged and excited by their work, and as a business, we need to be financially healthy.

What is the key to success?
Being good to people. Relationships are the key to everything in professional services. Personally, it feels like I’m dating 100 people at once, between staff and our partners. We earnestly care about our partners and team, and I strive really hard to get my team to truly live out the mission of a servant, to selflessly make our partners’ businesses better.

It sometimes hurts to be super good to everyone, but I’ve found that when you are truly on another person’s side, they feel that care and we can form a great bond that serves everyone better.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
One thing I think about a lot is this quote from Steve Jobs:

“When you grow up, you tend to get told the world is the way it is, and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. . . . Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

I love this and it’s very motivating to me. We can change things, build things, and make life better for ourselves and for others.

What are some of your favorite books?
I like to read, and I generally have at least a few books going at a time.

BusinessManaging The Professional Service Firm by David Maister. It’s an older book, but it’s full of wise gems about running a knowledge-based firm.

Nonfiction — Anything about economics, biographies, the environment, or general life lessons. Some of my favorite authors are Michael Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell, and David Sedaris.

Pleasure — Anything that builds a good world and I can get out of my head for a while, including Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Ender’s Game, Harry Potter, and Mistborn.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
I don’t have a lot of tough days. I love what I’m doing and our team is amazing. There’s just a lot of crazy days! I’m always pulled in a hundred directions, so it’s always an exercise in prioritization and picking what I will succeed and fail at each day. It’s part of the curse of fast growth for sure, but it’ll get better.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My commitments to my client partners and my team, no question.

I started the company, but we’re building it together and I owe it to them to keep going and do my part. They trust me and depend on me to get it done. That’s a huge responsibility, and I need to honor that trust and fulfill it. This is true for our team, as well as for our partners who hire us to make their businesses better.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to dive in and figure it out along the way. Everyone is amazing at a few things and weak in many things. So live off your strengths and shore up your weaknesses one at the time.

I think so much of business comes down to three things:

  1. Be okay taking a calculated risk on a good idea.
  2. Be good to people and be a good citizen in your community.
  3. Be consistently improving your weaknesses.

Arthur Souritzidis – CEO, Momentum Solar

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.