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BizCast 46: From 0 to 60 with Olson Solar Energy

Episode 46

From 0 to 60 with Olson Solar Energy

About BizCast Greater La Crosse

We bring you news from the business community. From startups to experienced problem solvers, you’ll get in-depth insight on the challenges and opportunities of doing business in Greater La Crosse. Our show is a collaboration between and BizNews Greater La Crosse ( ).


The script is a conversation between Vicki Markussen, the host of a podcast called BizCast Greater La Crosse, and Keith Molzahn, a solar consultant at Olson Solar Energy. They discuss various aspects of solar energy, including technology, incentives, installation process, maintenance, and the growth of Olson Solar Energy as a company.

Full Transcript [ generated by AI]

[00:00:00] Keith Molzahn: 50 percent grant for farms or rural small businesses is on top of the 30 percent tax credit and also on top of the focus on energy rebates.

[00:00:13] Keith Molzahn: So we are talking 80 plus percent off of a solar system.

[00:00:21] Vicki Markussen: Welcome to BizCast Greater La Crosse, a weekly podcast from Biz News. We bring you news from the business community. I am your host and founder, Vicki Markussen, and joining me today is Keith Molzahn. He is a solar consultant with Olsen Solar Energy, which is a newer company in town. But before we get into that …

[00:00:44] Vicki Markussen: Let’s talk about solar because solar has come a long way from people who remember the early days, which were what, like 60s, 70s?

[00:00:53] Keith Molzahn: Yeah, 70s. I think President Carter had actually put solar panels on the White House, and I believe President Reagan had them taken down pretty quickly. But that technology has been around quite a while,

[00:01:03] Vicki Markussen: yeah.

[00:01:04] Vicki Markussen: And so Solar in terms of the technology and what people think of from back then and what it is now. How has that changed? Great

[00:01:13] Keith Molzahn: question. I would say solar panel technology has kind of plateaued. I don’t Olson Solar doesn’t. sell you any kind of special panel. There’s not tons of differences in panels, a little bit in the quality and a little bit differences in some warranties, but a solar panel is a solar panel.

[00:01:31] Keith Molzahn: Olsen solar, again, is not is not. selling or changing anything that you can’t find in other parts of the country, too. Where that new technology really is going into batteries. People that are getting solar panels are also asking about storing that power that they’re generating. And that’s tied a lot also to electric vehicles.

[00:01:51] Keith Molzahn: We have a lot of questions that kind of go hand in hand with EVs, batteries, and solar panels. So I answer a wide variety of questions every day.

[00:02:02] Vicki Markussen: So that technology, I think a lot of people are used to solar panels that just fuel, if you will, their homes, but now there’s credits and like, how does that work from a physical standpoint?

[00:02:16] Vicki Markussen: And then what are those incentives?

[00:02:18] Keith Molzahn: So how solar really works on a pretty basic level is what a solar installer is trying to do is figure out how much energy your house is using. The reason most people call us is to get rid of their electric belt. They’re sick of their electric belt. It’s never going to go down.

[00:02:35] Keith Molzahn: I’ve seen some solar panels and they just have a lot of questions and that’s really why I carry the title of solar consultant. I want to get out there and educate people and answer their questions, get them the level of detail so they can make their own decision on solar. So what we do is we’ll use 30 years of Wisconsin weather data.

[00:02:56] Keith Molzahn: We use the angle and. slope of their rough and really our computers calculate how many solar panels does this house need to get rid of their electric bill, how that works with the power company is some months you will overproduce during the summer on those long, hot, sunny days, you will actually way over exceed how much power your house needs and you’ll send that extra power back out to the grid.

[00:03:22] Keith Molzahn: We can go into more details on how that works with the power company and things like that. But that’s why we. always point people back to Olson Solar and say, Hey, give us a call, let us educate you. So that extra power goes back out to the grid and is stored for you in the form of credits. And you’re basically again, exchanging credits back and forth with the power company, essentially getting rid of your electric bill.

[00:03:45] Keith Molzahn: So you’re

[00:03:45] Vicki Markussen: not as people like to think of cable, you’re not cutting the cord, that cords needed because you’re going to need to pull from the grid, you’re going to put energy back on the grid, if you will, and so you’re not cutting the cord. There still is this back and forth that happens

[00:04:01] Keith Molzahn: very well put.

[00:04:02] Keith Molzahn: Yes, that is. A lot of people say, how do I cut the cord? Why won’t I, maybe I should invest in batteries and store that power in different parts of the United States. That does make sense in California, Florida Texas, those kind of places where electric rates are sky high and they have what are called time of use rates, that during Monday through Friday, during the busiest parts your rates can spike.

[00:04:28] Keith Molzahn: So it does make sense in some parts of the U. S. to invest in batteries and store your own power. rather than send that back out. Generally, I would say batteries are very expensive. There are some incentives out there and we do sell batteries. I would say small percentage of people invest in solar panels and batteries.

[00:04:49] Keith Molzahn: Most people will invest in solar panels and then are watching that battery technology. It’s tied a lot. We know electric vehicles need to have more powerful batteries that cost less, that will last longer. That same technology would be tied to what we would eventually store into home batteries. I would say at the end of the day, when we install a solar system, system most customers simply want to feel comfortable knowing that the solar system that we install can have batteries added later.

[00:05:21] Keith Molzahn: And that’s when you can cut the cord. So being truly off grid some people want that and that’s the lifestyle they want to live. I would tell people it is a little bit of a lifestyle change. I’m not saying it’s impossible to do, but sometimes when you look at the financial side of things, the numbers can get quite expensive.

[00:05:40] Vicki Markussen: Is there any pattern in terms of rural versus urban?

[00:05:45] Keith Molzahn: , where we see the biggest impact are on things like farms. We see farmers out there with 000 electric bills, and you could turn on any podcast and in here about farmers struggling to make ends meet and the ever changing prices and the grants that are out there and stuff.

[00:06:04] Keith Molzahn: That’s going on with our government. We have a representative in this area who’s very passionate about farmers too. And there are some more incentives out there for places like farms, things like that. We are not taking up farmland. A lot of people worry about that and say, are these panels taking away from this valuable farmland?

[00:06:23] Keith Molzahn: That’s not really the case. Those are things that are called micro grids where the electric company isn’t buying or leasing that land in installing panels. What we’re doing is installing 15 or 20 panels on your house, maybe 75 solar panels on a farmer’s shed or shop, something like that. And then again, like you said, Vicki, that is tied back into the grid, essentially getting rid of your electric bill.

[00:06:51] Vicki Markussen: So you talk about the incentives. How have those come along? It seems like there’s just all of a sudden talking solar is a hot topic these days. So what does that look like? What are those incentives

[00:07:03] Keith Molzahn: look like? With our government that’s in place now tends to highlight green energy.

[00:07:09] Keith Molzahn: We’ll just say that for many years, as long as I’ve way before I’ve been in the industry, there have been federal incentives and that comes in the way of a federal. tax credit. I can read on any kind of message board or on Facebook, some people that will push back on that and say the government shouldn’t be subsidizing this.

[00:07:28] Keith Molzahn: My response to that is these are the taxes you’re paying and you’re getting a tax credit. We aren’t taking those tax dollars away. It’d be very similar to a marriage tax credit or a child tax credit. The government wants this program to work. They think it’s good for the overall health of our power system and grid that is out there too.

[00:07:52] Keith Molzahn: So right now, after the Inflation Reduction Act about a year and a half ago. That set the federal tax credit at 30 percent for the next 10 years. I think around year eight or nine, it starts to taper off to 26 percent and then maybe down to 22%,, but for the foreseeable future, what’s really fueling and helping people afford solar is this 30 percent tax credit.

[00:08:18] Keith Molzahn: Additionally, a lot of people ask about focus on energy focus on energy as a. state program that power companies can essentially opt into a big power producer in this area is Xcel Energy. Most people know and get plenty of mail and emails that Xcel is part of Focus on Energy and there are rebates for solar through Focus on Energy within the bigger cities, La Crosse on Alaska Holman, that’s a 500 Rebate if you’re rural outside the area Blair, Taylor, Fulton City, the list goes on you get 1, 000 focus on energy, and if you’re in the agriculture or commercial sector it’s based on the size of your system, and in fact, last night, I was in front of a church they needed a lot of solar panels, they have a big church here in town but their focus on energy rebate was going to be 6, 000.

[00:09:14] Keith Molzahn: 6, 000. 6, 000. So it’s supported that way. And then finally, there is a grant out there for agriculture or rural small businesses. The name of that grant is called REAP. It stands for Renewable Energy Assistance Program. Very simple. Google search can get you more information. That is 50 percent off the total cost of a solar system.

[00:09:37] Keith Molzahn: When we get into those kinds of numbers, that’s where we see farmers and these businesses. be a little bit more interested in batteries. We’ve had some people add some electric vehicle car charges. That’s something else Olson can do, but that 50 percent grant for farms or rural small businesses is on top of the 30 percent tax credit and also on top of the focus on energy rebates.

[00:10:03] Keith Molzahn: So we are talking 80 plus percent off of a solar system. And then that naturally leads to the next question of, okay, if I invest in solar, it’s a common question to ask, how much does this cost? I’m going to say it depends on how much energy you use. But the math is the same.

[00:10:21] Keith Molzahn: What’s my ROI or when do I see these panels paying themselves off? On average. With a house without a big tree in the backyard, with a decently south facing roof, an average payback on a residence is about nine to ten years. , on something where there are more incentives and using this REAP grant, we are seeing paybacks in the two year payback period.

[00:10:49] Keith Molzahn: Another question that comes up, though, is if I invest in solar, what about the future? This sounds good right now I’ve checked a lot of those boxes, but I’ve seen questions like do I got to replace these solar panels in 10 years? If they’re good for 10 years and they pay for themselves? What about after 10 years?

[00:11:08] Keith Molzahn: So lifespan durability of these panels, panels are rated for 175 mile per hour winds and softball sized hail warranty wise panels and the brains or micro inverters of those panels carry a manufacturer’s warranty of 25 years. They carry a 30 year warranty on the output of the system, and panels will generally last about 40 to 50 years.

[00:11:36] Vicki Markussen: You have a lot of people that are putting these on their homes. Any concerns that people have in terms of, okay, I put this on the roof of my garage, now what happens when I need to replace the shingles or things of that nature? What happens underneath the solar panels? That’s great.

[00:11:51] Keith Molzahn: First of all, it’s going to kind of protect that roof.

[00:11:54] Keith Molzahn: But one of the things that we do, and again, is me being called a consultant, is I want to come out to your property. We have some people that have kind of a bad rough and they ask, I think that rough is going to need to be replaced in five years. I would tell people, yeah, you might want to speed that process up and get those solar panels on.

[00:12:13] Keith Molzahn: We’ll be up front and as any solar company should be about the, how that works. The roof and its lifespan of those shingles if it does, if everything works out great and these solar panels last as long as I’m talking about eventually, yes, you are going to have to usually replace shingles.

[00:12:30] Keith Molzahn: Solar panels are obviously not permanent. They come down and go back up. That’s a service that we provide. What we’ve seen more often though, Vicki, is insurance claims. We are seeing more people with a hail. claim on their roof. So what we strongly encourage everyone is to do is to add these solar panels to your homeowner’s insurance because we have found actually it’s more likely that you’re going to have roof damage from hail or a tree than the insurance company is going to pay to take those panels off.

[00:13:01] Keith Molzahn: and put them back up. That is not all that expensive. And that’s something that, that’s unique to every customer, but always happy to address that question.

[00:13:09] Vicki Markussen: So Keith, do you go out to some locations or some of the people you work with go out to locations and say, The math doesn’t work, or the location doesn’t work.

[00:13:18] Vicki Markussen: What is, what does that look like when you’re assessing properties for

[00:13:23] Keith Molzahn: compliance? Every house is different. I wish we lived, in the solar world. I would hope there weren’t trees in everyone’s yard. But, that’s something that everyone takes into account. Everyone’s going to have A list that’s different of what’s most important to them.

[00:13:39] Keith Molzahn: In fact, I walked into one person’s house, and the most important thing to him was where those panels are manufactured. He goes, I’m not letting you put anything from China on my roof, and he stood there with his arms crossed. Luckily Olsen Solar is not a Distributor of any one specific panel. There are some options out there.

[00:13:59] Keith Molzahn: One of the most popular panels that we have that go on 95 percent or higher of our properties from a company called Vsun which are wholly manufactured in Vietnam, owned by a Japanese company. There are American made panels out there. There are a couple of manufacturers that we can get American made panels.

[00:14:17] Keith Molzahn: There’s a little bit of a price difference, but for some people that’s important. for others that’s not. Next is the bottom line. How much does this cost? Some people that’s all about the numbers. And then lastly, I think where we’re also taking this question is the overall look of the property.

[00:14:32] Keith Molzahn: Some people don’t want those panels on the front of their house and if their front of their house is facing south, that’s one of your only options. Solar panels can certainly go on the ground. There are ground mounted systems. We do a fair amount of those. Maybe a third of our business is putting solar panels in the ground.

[00:14:50] Keith Molzahn: But again, a majority are on the house. If you live within the city or city limits or townships, most people, some people don’t want those on the front of their house and the back of their house might have a big tree. There are situations where I’ve gone to people’s house and say, if you’re not willing to cut down this tree.

[00:15:09] Keith Molzahn: Which does qualify for the tax credit. The tax code actually reads anything that you do to help put solar in, like trim a few branches, you can, that also qualifies for the 30 percent tax credit. One of the arguments that I can’t win is if the overall aesthetic look of your property is that important, that’s something that, that goes into their decision.

[00:15:32] Vicki Markussen: How about maintenance? How much maintenance is

[00:15:34] Keith Molzahn: involved? There is technically no maintenance. You do not have to brush snow off of solar panels. You certainly can. It’ll just make your solar system more efficient or make your payback more efficient. You can get your better ROI if you were to brush snow off your solar panels.

[00:15:51] Keith Molzahn: Some people have a big two story house and that’s just not physically possible. I own solar panels. A good side story is before I worked at Olson I called them, was interested in solar. The guy came to my door and assessed our property and kind of shot me a quote. And me and my wife looked at each other and went.

[00:16:09] Keith Molzahn: This kind of seems like a no brainer with these assessments and power’s never gonna go down. We, and we invested in solar and a few months later I was sitting at my desk at work and I went, boy that’s gotta be a good job. People call and you go out and answer questions and there’s these incentives out there.

[00:16:27] Keith Molzahn: So it’s been a really good fit for me, but I actually came from the customer side. So why I am so good at talking about solar is. I went through this process before, so I’ll use my solar panels as an example. I have a detached garage. Every morning when I walk out the back door, I see my solar panels. And I don’t know, a few days ago we had a dusting of snow.

[00:16:50] Keith Molzahn: It didn’t bother me at all because when I get my electric bill. These panels are doing what they said. My electric bill doesn’t disappear. I still have a charge for having a meter on there. But I’m okay with letting the snow melt off. Solar is about those long, hot, sunny days in the summer and not the three or four days that it’s going to snow in December.

[00:17:12] Keith Molzahn: All of that is taken into account when we’re giving you a bid. You’d not have to wash them again. You are not required to. Brush snow off of your panels to each their own is what I say there. Yeah, so they’re very maintenance free.

[00:17:26] Vicki Markussen: So you touched on your story and coming into Olson Solar Energy, which was a few years in.

[00:17:32] Vicki Markussen: So we were chatting before this that it started in 2017. What did that look like for the company?

[00:17:40] Keith Molzahn: Yeah, that is a really interesting story and this is one that I love sharing because one of the reasons I love working at Olson is really our company culture. Solar is a great business. The reason Olson Solar was formed is because it was this hot business.

[00:17:56] Keith Molzahn: How it started is with Brandon and Cameron Olson, their twin brothers from the Holman area. After college they each went their own way. Cameron was with Ashley Furniture and eventually took over the warehouse operations at a new plant out in North Carolina, and his twin brother went the opposite direction.

[00:18:16] Keith Molzahn: He was in the Pacific Northwest in law enforcement, a little bit more specifically on the parole and probation side. And Brandon is an avid listener of NPR and heard about this solar industry that it’s the fastest growing industry in the United States. And he called his brother Cameron and they talked about it and said, boy, this is a good idea.

[00:18:39] Keith Molzahn: And I think the funniest line that I’ve ever heard them say, well, maybe not funny, really more inspirational as they said, good ideas. The place good ideas go to die is by, well, let’s talk about this. Let’s think about this. Let’s do that. So they made the decision right there and then, let’s roll the dice and do this.

[00:18:58] Keith Molzahn: And they moved back they transitioned a little bit slowly out of their jobs. That first year in 2017 into 2018 was really about education. You need some certifications. You need to have a master electrician we had to build a relationship there. There were lots of courses, again, certifications, qualifications to meet.

[00:19:18] Keith Molzahn: Luckily there was a solar company, very small solar company where the gentleman was looking to get out of the industry and he acted more as a mentor kind of that first year to help form and get Olsen Solar on their feet. Into 2018, 2019 we installed just a couple of solar systems after that, probably by about year three into four, we were installing six to 10 solar systems.

[00:19:45] Keith Molzahn: And that’s where we hired our first couple of employees. We had a, then a sales manager and an office manager and Cameron and Brandon wore all the other hats. A lot of people had to do a lot of different things and you’ll see on our website, plenty of pictures of Cameron and Brandon on a roof, installing these solar panels, and they still, when we were busy, when we are busy, our CEO and COO will drop what they’re doing and go out and help put up solar panels.

[00:20:11] Keith Molzahn: So we have to wear a lot of different hats when we go through that growth, but that growth really accelerated after 20, probably 18. That time we were doing 50 solar systems. When I was brought on about three years ago, we were in the neighborhood of 250 last year, I think we did right around 500 solar systems in the area and going into next year, we’ll.

[00:20:34] Keith Molzahn: We definitely will see those numbers grow with all these incentives out there. As far as employees we’ve gone from just those couple of employees to I think we have 60 employees right now. Our installers are out today installing solar systems as we speak. We’ve grown from just our Onalaska location where we now have a brick and mortar in Eau Claire as well as Wausau.

[00:20:59] Keith Molzahn: We have a salesperson in the Green Bay Janesville and another that covers Minnesota and Iowa for us. So we have a very large footprint. print. We’ve done solar systems from Duluth and Superior. We just finished one with a Milwaukee address. We definitely easily cover the whole state as well as Minnesota in Iowa.

[00:21:22] Vicki Markussen: So to summarize that growth, it was two brothers. in 2017 going, Hey, we think there’s something here. They moved back to the area, opened Olson Solar Energy. It was just the two of them putting up panels. And they did two a year to that year to last year, 60 employees and more than 500. Yeah, systems put

[00:21:46] Keith Molzahn: in place and that’s really difficult growth.

[00:21:48] Keith Molzahn: A lot of people might applaud that or go, wow, those guys are really lucky. They were at the right place at the right time. And Holy cow, they sold 500 solar systems in there. They have new buildings and growth, and that is really difficult growth. I could see it and it’s really tough. When you go through that.

[00:22:05] Keith Molzahn: The amount of cash on hand that you need to buy things like vehicles for to install 500 solar systems and to deal with weather times of the years a little bit tends to be a little bit seasonal but we like to think we go year round but there’s ebbs and flows and definitely some.

[00:22:25] Keith Molzahn: some challenges with managing that kind of growth. So we are, I think we would say that we are poised very well. We’ve seen that growth be a little bit more manageable and study. And really the future looks great for solar and for Olson. So I appreciate

[00:22:42] Vicki Markussen: that. Thanks. It’s interesting as you talk about that, because it’s really the same math that the homeowners are doing, going, can we make.

[00:22:50] Vicki Markussen: So, I’m going to give you a little bit of a sense of these panels, right? How long will it take us to pay these panels off? It’s exactly the same thought process that the brothers are having of going, okay, if we invest in all these vehicles and all these people, how long is this going to last? What’s our return on our investment in our own business, right?

[00:23:06] Vicki Markussen: Right. But to your point they did the leap and they said, okay, we’re going to figure this out as we go rather than sit here and do analysis paralysis. And so they did it and they’re maneuvering it. Yes. But. This year sales I would imagine is helping the lenders or wherever they’re finding the cash from to say this is a no brainer.

[00:23:26] Vicki Markussen: Look at this growth and it’s not slowing down. And so yes, we’re going to, I’m going to pull out my list here of what you were talking about. So you have sales presence in Green Bay. You’re looking at Rochester and Janesville. So The growth, there’s also a saturation piece to this too you know, your market, I’m guessing like, where the grants are the most there’s a greater benefit for particular types of like farmers and the rural businesses and things of that nature.

[00:23:54] Vicki Markussen: And so what’s the piece that’s going to tip or maybe it’s already tipped to say yes to Rochester or yes to

[00:24:01] Keith Molzahn: Janesville, one of the things that is always been a challenge is where we capture these customers. If we’re going to put a brick and mortar building in, let’s just use Rochester as an example, how do we know that we’re going to be able to have that same kind of growth?

[00:24:18] Keith Molzahn: We can run the numbers and say, if we can get in front of a hundred people, We know just extrapolated out over the last seven years, we know we should close this many solar systems out of a hundred. How many hundreds of those leads do we need to make Rochester a viable brick and mortar building? So the question then is, where are you getting those customers?

[00:24:43] Keith Molzahn: I know, I keep talking that people are very interested in this, and it’s my job to go out and, Answer the questions and get more details. But to be honest, I’m not knocking on doors. I don’t think anyone likes a door knocker. And you can go onto Facebook too and find a lot of false information. So how do we get those people and get them the right information so they can make that decision so we know those numbers will work out and that.

[00:25:08] Keith Molzahn: So the question then is, what about your marketing spend? Where do you find these customers? How do you get them? So a lot of it is word of mouth. We’ve installed well over 1, 500 solar systems in the area. That means we have 15, we like to think 1, 500 happy customers. We have very good Google reviews.

[00:25:27] Keith Molzahn: We have advocates of solar that, that will happily tell their neighbors all about that. We spend on traditional media print we do a lot of radio. Hopefully you’ve seen our commercials. Also, we did a super bowl commercial, not this last year, but the year before. So there are a lot of different spends and a lot of it is digital to people go on the internet.

[00:25:48] Keith Molzahn: If you were, we have found that our typical customer, the first thing they do. Historically, is go to Google and type something about solar in there. There are companies out there that sponsor ads and a lot of people click on those ads to say, the bait might be, how much does solar cost? Click here to find out.

[00:26:10] Keith Molzahn: Some of those websites get all of your information and then at the end say, we have some qualified solar installers in your area that can get you a more accurate quote and answer the rest of your questions. Then just common business sense, people pay to get those from those sponsored ads. Solar companies pay for those leads, and we will follow up with those people that started clicking.

[00:26:35] Keith Molzahn: We see a much higher close rate of people that are calling us, going directly to our website, saying, I saw your neighbors. We’ve had leads come from people flagging our vehicles down and saying, hey, I saw your commercial. Can I get a card? I’m really interested in this. I need more information. So we’re trying to find that sweet spot of how can we get in front of people.

[00:26:59] Keith Molzahn: So we love to do things like the home show that’s coming up this spring. You can always find us at the Omni center there. We like to be parts in, in, in the community and working with peers. Things like the builders association is a big thing for us too. We try to be part of the area chambers of commerce and other networking groups of that type too.

[00:27:19] Keith Molzahn: That’s where we see a lot of good bang for our buck.

[00:27:22] Vicki Markussen: It’s keeping it local, having that touch point, if you will. And what I love about what you talk about, that’s the piece behind businesses that a lot of people don’t understand is going, what have we, what effort have we put out there and what are the results and how do we do more of that and less of the things that we’re not seeing results on?

[00:27:41] Vicki Markussen: And it’s especially intriguing that you. I firmly believe in those. I’ll call it a warm touch, right? You’re not cold calling and who likes a cold call? No one, but there’s some connection there, whether it’s again, a neighbor or education that happened or just being in the neighborhood. You’re not, we’re repairing a house or we’re putting panels on a house in your neighborhood.

[00:28:04] Vicki Markussen: Call us and we can do yours too. It doesn’t sound like that’s happening.

[00:28:07] Keith Molzahn: Certainly, yeah, there are things like that out there. No, historically, we’ve stayed away from cold calling and door knocking and things like that. And yes, warm handoffs are the best. Those are the easiest job.

[00:28:21] Keith Molzahn: Part of my job is when someone goes, Hey, my neighbor has solar. They love it. They were saying all these great things about Olson. So they convinced me to give you a call. Those are as a salesperson because at the end of the day, yes, I’m a sales consult or a solar consultant, but I am in the sales industry.

[00:28:38] Keith Molzahn: That’s what my job title really is. And my IRS. forms. So yeah, it’s my job to, to sell solar panels at the end of the day. And that can be challenging at times and it can be easy at times too. It’s a cool job to have when you have this really cool product and people want to know about it and there are incentives out there to help

[00:28:58] Vicki Markussen: pay for it.

[00:28:59] Vicki Markussen: And I’m going to add another angle on it too, which is. You being Olson solar energy, the company grew significantly at a time when others were struggling to find employees. Do you attribute that to this being a type of job that makes employees

[00:29:18] Keith Molzahn: feel good? I said a little bit earlier, too. I’m very proud and happy to work at Olson.

[00:29:22] Keith Molzahn: So I think we have amazing company values. We have very good ethics. The Brandon and Cameron have, we’ve had a couple of challenging installations. Things don’t always go perfect. And They will jump in if a customer really has some challenging questions or wants to hear from the top, you can always talk to our CEO.

[00:29:43] Keith Molzahn: But what I have found very interesting is that it really does permanate from the inside. And we have really not had a problem hiring people. We have a long list of applicants every time we have a job posting. So we do really get to pick the cream of the crop, and that’s why I think we’ve had such great success.

[00:30:02] Keith Molzahn: Good reviews and people are happy to recommend Olson Solar because like you said, those warm handoffs. So when the neighbors had a good experience, they’re going to tell everyone about it. And that does help. I can talk up solar all day, but at the end of the day, a project manager is going to take over as the next step.

[00:30:19] Keith Molzahn: And then it’s finalized by the installers going out there and putting panels on someone’s roof. And when they clean up well after themselves, we’ve had some sweet old ladies say. All those boys were just so nice and I took them out lemonade and oh, they were just so polite that as a salesperson, when the back end of the deal comes together I can’t wait.

[00:30:40] Keith Molzahn: This Saturday is our Christmas party. And I think the whole company is excited to, to celebrate a really good year.

[00:30:47] Vicki Markussen: So my common closer question is, and you’ve touched on this a few times, what makes you passionate about? what you do.

[00:30:58] Keith Molzahn: Wow. Yeah, it is. It’s a combination of things. I have always with the companies.

[00:31:03] Keith Molzahn: I’ve been very lucky in the past to work for some very good companies. I like to think I have a very good work ethic and I feel very comfortable selling soul Olson solar panels. Because I know at the back end, this is going to go well. I really have a great support system around me. We have a lot of different positions at Olson Solar.

[00:31:24] Keith Molzahn: So anyone that you know, that might be looking for a job, keep your ear to the ground this spring, I’m sure we’ll be hiring more people as we continue to grow. Company culture is really important to me too. But this makes sense. I very. Early in this podcast, I said I called Olson Solar because I wanted to see if this made sense for me at my house with my electric bill.

[00:31:47] Keith Molzahn: And it did. So it’s very easy to work and recommend and sell something and help people understand that, Vicky. You’ve known me a little bit. I’m, I don’t claim to be a genius. This made simple sense to me, so I really have, I’d like to say, one of the best jobs in town. I’m going

[00:32:06] Vicki Markussen: to do a follow up, which I don’t normally do to that question.

[00:32:09] Vicki Markussen: You’ve been in the middle years of the company, although seeing probably the most substantial growth, what does it feel like to believe in a company as passionately as you do, and then decide to leave? it be successful and growing and expanding. What does that feel

[00:32:24] Keith Molzahn: like?

[00:32:24] Keith Molzahn: It is weird. I haven’t ever had that feeling before to see the owners of the company be successful and then to take that, those benefits and that success and those things and put it back into the company and continue to, I don’t know, at this point we keep saying roll the dice. But keep investing more and more and more into this and growing this.

[00:32:47] Keith Molzahn: I don’t think they have ambitions of being the biggest in the Midwest or having 20 or 30 different locations. I think they want to keep things at a manageable size. The owners on branding and Cameron are just as passionate about their employees as they are solar. But it’s fun when everyone’s excited.

[00:33:07] Keith Molzahn: I, I can’t believe they asked me to still do this, but every time someone says yes to a solar system, they want me to send out a company email, kind of a bell ringing that we sold another solar system. I said very early on, we’ve, it’s going to be for very shortly, we’re going to have sold 2000 solar systems.

[00:33:27] Keith Molzahn: I can’t believe to see Cameron and Brandon still get that excited when I sell one solar system. I say, hey that’s my job. That’s what you’re paying me for. But to see them get that excited, even over one solar system, I, It still surprises me and that’s just really infectious enthusiasm that you, it’s, it’s tough to explain.

[00:33:50] Keith Molzahn: That’s

[00:33:51] Vicki Markussen: great leadership. They nurture the pride of the employees, and that’s very smart. You have been listening to BizCast Greater La Crosse. That was Keith Molzahn. He is a solar consultant with Olsen Solar Energy.

[00:34:06] Vicki Markussen: I’m your host, Vicki Markussen, and we will catch you next week.



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