In our second edition of our newly launched Ask a Vet podcast, we got a chance to speak with Anthony Conklin, president and general manager for Solar Data Systems North America. Solar Data Systems’ Solar-Log monitoring platform is used in residential and commercial PV projects and is compatible with more than 100 brands of inverters.
Conklin is likewise diversified. In 2007, he was brought on as the seventh employee at a New York installation company, hired to “build this thing called solar.” After five years, he moved to a small developer and helped it grow into a multi-million-dollar business before getting into financing and finally tapped to head the North American division at Solar-Log. Conklin also works as a motivational speaker and has had the opportunity to mentor millennial sales executives and share his experiences with professional athletes. Though we may not all have the chance to work in all solar segments (residential, commercial and utility) or inspire players on the New York Knicks or Yankees, Conklin said we can all be an example and tell a great story. Listen to the full interview or read some of his thoughts below.
One thing I noticed is you don’t mind being in front of people. What motivates you to do so, whether in solar or not?
I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I’m not shy about that. It’s really my passion. If you can’t tell a really good story it doesn’t matter how smart you are. Steve Jobs knew how to tell a really great story, so does Warren Buffett and Tony Robbins, whom I admire greatly. Leaders know how to tell great stories to inspire people to make changes in their lives, to better themselves and the people around them, like their coworkers, spouses, family and community.
You’ve worked in all solar sectors (residential, commercial and utility). What perspective can you share from that position?
I think all three are exciting sectors, but it really depends on your personality. Residential is a very personal business. When I went out and sold my first system, I spent hours with the homeowner letting them know the benefits and value they would get and how it would be good for the environment. Commercial building owners are all about tax incentives. A gentleman I used to work with and I had this running joke, “Well, who do you want to write the check to, yourself or Uncle Sam? Because you have to write the check anyway.” The utility side is all about big-time investment and longer sale cycles and certain people may be cut out for that. I’ve had the opportunity to work in all sectors and each has its place and opportunity to continue to scale. But it goes back to sharing a great story, whether that’s with a developer on the utility side or commercial side or telling that story to a homeowner.
You are an incredibly busy guy; how do you balance everything?
It’s about “whole-life” balance. You have to integrate your personal and professional life into one complete life. I mark out certain times and days for my family. Saying no is a little better than saying yes all the time because if you say yes and you mess up, then you’re going to lose credibility. I’m also thankful to have people around to help keep me organized—my head of operations, our marketing folks and the rest of the staff, and my wife. One thing I’ve learned as I’ve grown into my new position here is that you’re a product of the five people you spend time with. I’ve managed to surround myself with people who are like-minded, inspiring and growing as they want to do more for their families and careers, but also for the community. I’ve cut certain people out of my life, not because they’re bad people but because they aren’t in the same place as I am and aren’t going where I’m going. That’s been a helpful thing for me.
Check back monthly for a new episode of Ask a Solar Vet, in which editor Kathie Zipp brings you the unique perspectives and insights of those who have spent more than a decade in solar.