Eco2Solar managing director Paul Hutchens tells Leonie Roderick how he stayed ahead in the competitive solar energy market.
Location Kidderminster, Worcestershire
Number of employees 18
Specialism Solar energy
Major clients Mansell Construction Services, Galliford Try, Linden homes, and Barratt Construction
In early 2007, Paul Hutchens was determined to break into the competitive solar energy market when he founded his company Eco2Solar. Six years later, the market has been through some extremely volatile periods, but the business continues to grow.
Eco2Solar installs solar PV systems and provides solar thermal and heat pumps for a variety of markets, spanning domestic and larger commercial buildings, including new build.
FiT cuts make for patchy market
Six years on and the company has turned from an organisation run by three people into a successful business with an annual turnover of £5.4 million. However, the government cuts to Feed-in Tariffs have made business quite sporadic.
“It has been a difficult environment for us, a bit like busses: we’d get three jobs one day, the next day we’d get none,” Mr Hutchens says.
“For a few months we had too much demand due to the government deadlines, which meant everyone wanted to have their panels installed before a certain date. After the deadline, it was unsurprising that it went quiet for a while.”
“The reason we’ve been able to survive and thrive is because we serve many markets”
Paul Hutchens, Eco2Solar
Many solar companies foundered after business confidence was shaken to the core by the government’s alterations to the FiT scheme. But Mr Hutchens believes the industry has stabilised and the outlook for the next three months is looking positive.
“The government has changed the tariff regime, so now it’s a lot easier to predict what is going to happen,” he says. “We know our deadlines and what resources we need, so business is much smoother. It’s the most stable the industry has been in a few months, and our order book is pretty much full for the next two or three months.”
Multiple markets ensure survival
Mr Hutchens believes it was the company’s diversity that has helped it survive. “Others within the industry have really struggled, particularly those which focused on a single market,” he says. “The reason we’ve been able to survive and thrive is because we serve many markets. There’s always one doing well.”
Another factor contributing to Eco2Solar’s success is its active marketing efforts at networking events and through simply talking to others within the industry. “This enables us to meet people and open up new projects,” Mr Hutchens says.
Flexibility is also vital to success. “What clients want to know is whether they can rely on us to deliver,” he says. “It’s a very competitive environment, so we have to be as flexible as we possibly can. It’s all about prioritising key customers.”
Professionalism boosts noteriety
As the business has grown it has also professionalised. “We have many accreditations, and we’re in the final throes of getting ISO 9001 certification to meet the demands of the construction industry,” Mr Hutchens says.
“This will make us quite unusual in our field, because there aren’t that many small companies who have the certification as it’s quite difficult to get.”
“What clients want to know is whether they can rely on us to deliver”
Paul Hutchens, Eco2Solar
And it doesn’t stop there for company growth: the senior management team have set out a clear vision for what they want to achieve next. “Our mission is to educate people about their use of energy and to translate that into savings within organisations, by generating energy more efficiently and sustainably,” Mr Hutchens explains.
This will be done through Eco2Solar’s recently launched sister company Eco2Energy, which offers energy efficiency measures for non-domestic buildings such as hotels, offices, universities and hospitals on a consultative basis.
“There are a lot of myths out there, so we want to educate the industry and the public as to what’s available and what’s possible. We’re definitely getting there, but there’s still a long way to go.”