More Leads Online Podcast Episode 014
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Nathan Young (00:00:00):
Hey, this is Nathan Young, founder of more leads online. I’m back with another guest on the home service leaders podcast. This is Martin Morud. Say your last name for me. More rude, more rude if you, but you’re not more rude. Every time I’ve talked to Marty, I’ve always walked away thinking that he was a super cool guy. He’s never been rude. Marty. I’m sorry. That was hilariously bad joke. I’m a dad though. So
Martin Morud (00:00:25):
I never heard that one before. Oh my God. For real. Yeah. Oh man.
Nathan Young (00:00:30):
I’ve okay. I feel better. I have kids. It’s always my excuse. I’m like, I’m a dad. I can make these jokes.
Martin Morud (00:00:35):
It was a joke. He was bad. Hey, I get to check that box. Nice.
Nathan Young (00:00:40):
Marty. Tell us your story. How did you become a business owner in the first place? How and or why?
Well, first of all, you’re in residential and some commercial solar, right? Yeah.
Martin Morud (00:00:57):
You know, how is an interesting question? Because I think most people ask how and the answer is why you know, like to kind of start, you know, I wanted this and I wanted this. And so I packaged together this, but the, the how, especially since the audience here is mostly folks interested in building some sort of home contracting business is you go to your, you go file with the secretary of state, you get yourself a legal entity, you take some courses, get a contractor’s license, devise, a product of some sort and put it on a shelf, sell it
Nathan Young (00:01:40): And build it.
Martin Morud (00:01:41):
So that’s how, I mean, that’s the how I guess. Right?
Nathan Young (00:01:43):
Well, that’s the how for everyone is that
Martin Morud (00:01:46):
Every one. So that’s how you do that. And then I did the same thing, but I was working at a Medtronic, which is a, was a Minnesota based, not it’s an Irish based medical device company. I wanted to be a doctor come out of college, got a research opportunity, jumped at it and just, you know, kind of always thought it was my dream job, I guess. What’s that? What kind of doctor? Oh, just any doctor really, but it quickly turned to medical research and genetics and influences growing up around the sciences and you know genetics and just reading books and was fascinated with it. And that kind of put me in a
position to be somewhere in this doctor, healthcare area. So I was started out college as pre-med and I ended with a degree in biochemistry having three summer internships for summer internships at the university of Minnesota in their plant genetics organization.
Nathan Young (00:02:52):
Correct me if I’m wrong, but biochemistry to me, I’m trying to tie these two together and I’m going biochemistry. You would have started learning a lot of the stuff you need to know now then. Right. Is that, am I way off base way off base? Oh, okay. Thanks for correcting me.
Martin Morud (00:03:11):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I learned a lot, but I’m running a business.
Nathan Young (00:03:16):
Oh, sorry. I meant specifically about solar stuff.
Martin Morud (00:03:20):
Yeah. Solar would still would be more in like physics, if you’re a physics major or like a pre-engineering major. I went to St. John’s university and there was a lot of like, kids did a three, two program or they do three years of undergraduate stuff. Then do two years at the university of Minnesota, get their master’s. So they’d get an, a bachelor’s and a master’s in five years. And I could see physics and electronics and engineering, you know, classes like that, but there was no, as an undergraduate, you didn’t take any mechanical engineering classes. We took physics one physics two, you know? And so there, there was an ounce of volts, times amps, equal Watts and resistance calculations and things like that. But I don’t remember any of that. And there’s definitely, when I was going to school, there was nothing to do with sun, sun angles, asthma with sun hours, solar power, you know, that was 20 years ago though, too. Okay.
Nathan Young (00:04:25):
So, so then, so now, okay. Now I stand corrected and I’ll dig into that. A couple of questions I have now around that a little bit, but you said you were basically in school, you were pre-med, you were coming up on graduation, you still had no idea that you were going to get into business. You had a research opportunity. You took that. What, what happened next?
Martin Morud (00:04:47):
Yeah, so I went to work at Medtronic and it was cool because the mission of Medtronic is to, you know, alleviate pain, restore life, bring back, you know, folks from whatever ailment they’re experiencing. And I, I bought in hard to that mission was in their corporate science and technology group. And we just did all kinds of research. We were part firefighters trying to fix things for the various business organizations, the stint group, that cardiac pacemaker group surgery tool. I mean, back then, Medtronic, I think at five major diabetes management, you know drug pumps now they’re much more diversified, you know, but back then there’s five major groups and we would firefight things for them. And we would try to come up with new ideas to expand markets, create markets, expand markets that kind of thing. So it was a really fun place to be, you know, very forward thinking kind of felt a little bit like a bottomless budget, you know, your Cowboys running off, you know, running after, you know, wild ideas, trying to make things right.
Martin Morud (00:05:59):
But the, the truth of it is I had eight bosses in five years and, you know, I, it’s tough to pull off a such a strong mission that was written, you know, at that time 50 years ago, when you got 40,000 global employees, you know, wrestle that culture under control. And it’s just, it, it wasn’t the kind of experience I thought it was going to be. And I had a hard time maintaining control over my destiny. That was the big thing. I would see folks get recruited to Medtronic and go there. And they were hoping for one thing. And then management would have to be w was constantly redirecting. And it didn’t seem to matter whether the therapy was working or not. It was a market driven, money driven, legal patent driven kinds of, you know, reason why we couldn’t go do these things. And you’re like, you’re sitting there going, wait, you’re going to tell me I can’t go make a difference in those world, you know? And so I found that really, really frustrating.
Nathan Young (00:07:16):
Okay. So you have this compounding feeling of lack of control of your destiny constantly being stuck behind sort of the machinations of commercialization and profit to actually like do something impactful, even though that’s supposedly your stated mission. Tell me about the transfer between that. And like, at some point you decided, man, I’m going to learn how to do solar. Like what’s the transition there?
Martin Morud (00:07:44):
Yeah. So, you know, the, the big moment is I just got laid off, like, you know, everybody did, but I was one of the lucky ones because I got laid off kind of early. And I don’t know if that was something to do with me personally. You know, I always tried to pride myself in being indispensable, but I was dispensable, they got rid of me fast and I was on this really exciting project at the time. And I was launching a global mentoring program the morning I got laid off too. So that was a big, you know, rip the band-aid kind of moment and that really hurt, but my feelings of wanting some control over my future had already been there. You know, and I wasn’t at a tipping point, I can’t say to be honest, that had I not been laid off, I would have put in my notice six months from then, I don’t think I was really quite ready for that.
Martin Morud (00:08:36):
But the, the feelings of lack of control and frustration started probably a year and a half before that, at the same time I was getting interested in solar. My college roommate did the three, two program was in the solar decathlon at the U of M and my dad wanted solar. And it was kind of like, Hey, can you guys come build for us? On top of that? My dad got a bigger incentive. If the person who designed it and built it had this certification and my college buddy, Steve wanted that certification. And my dad was like, I’ll pay for you to go to school. You know, if you go, if I pay two grand for you to go to school, I get a $10,000 incentive win-win win. Right. So, and th th this thing just kind of snowballed into going to build a project for dad. And it took some strong arming because I was hesitant to do it. I was too busy or whatever else. And I remember we sat down you’re from Minneapolis, right.
Nathan Young (00:09:33):
I live in Minneapolis now. I grew up in Illinois near Chicago.
Martin Morud (00:09:39):
Okay. So this is, this is before I ever got laid off. I think the summer before, and my dad organized a meeting at the Cardinal bar off of Hiawatha and 35th, maybe. Okay.
Nathan Young (00:09:55):
I know, I know what that I know where that is. Yeah.
Martin Morud (00:09:59):
And it was me and Steve and my dad and we’re having burgers and a beer. And my dad looks at Steve and says, you know, Steve, will you build me a solar Ray, Marty doesn’t seem to have much interest in it. And then it was like, bam, you know, okay, now dad, I can do this. You know, I can do this. We probably need Steve too, but I can do this. And that’s, that’s really the, you know, people, entrepreneurs think of that moment when, you know, the origin of whatever was to come. And it was sitting at that Cardinal bar in that moment when he asked Steve to build a marae, I said, no, no, no, I, I could do this. I want in, on this too. Yeah.
Nathan Young (00:10:41):
And then it just, the rest is history right now you own a 30 person or really close solar, residential and commercial, right. Solar installation company. And you guys do fresh installations, but you also do I assume, maintenance of existing systems. Yes. Okay, awesome. So how long has that journey been now? So you said yes. At the burger and beers table to today, what’s the, what’s the Delta on? How long has it been since you said, yes.
Martin Morud (00:11:16):
Well, remember back then, it was just a, it’s just a fun project in, you know at my parents’ farm and their backyard. And so we, we, we went and built that system actually ended up kind of adding on, I think, to a system that my dad built had another contractor build a couple of years earlier. So there was some kind of shadowing and learning and watching a process before we actually went and did it ourselves and added on to that. And there’s an interest. And, and, and remember is 2008, 2009, 2010. I got laid off in 2011. I started thinking about solar in oh nine, 2010 timeframe. And that’s when the recession hit. And so the federal government had to have a response. Each of the states had to have a response, the counties and the cities. I mean, you know, every government agency was trying to have a response to this recession, lean in and help out.
Martin Morud (00:12:17):
And in Minnesota it was green jobs, green jobs, green jobs. And so they were, they were tossing out money left and right, for folks that were unemployed to go get an education in this stuff. And their hope was that they would start businesses or, you know, reinvent themselves and, you know, build it and employ more people. So all that stuff was kind of brewing. And my dad was saying, you know, I know you’re frustrated Medtronic. You should, you should really look into this. No dad, no dad, no dad finally built, built the system for him, got laid off. And when I got laid off, it was let’s go. And it was, we had you know, got an entity. I got a bill, a construction license within 30 days, went to Dunwoody, went to St. Paul college. It’s interesting. The director of the school at St. Paul college who manage the whole solar course for a semester. You know, it only took him nine years, but he called me a year and a half ago and said, Hey, Marty, you’re the only group in town. I could imagine doing my array for me. Would you come? You know, so it was like full circle. It was. So
Nathan Young (00:13:30): It was, he
Martin Morud (00:13:33):
Came back and was like, oh my goodness, you’ve gone from pestering. Every one of my teachers to actually doing it. Now, can you come back and install something for me? And it was a license to have solar. So that was 10, 11 years ago. It was, it was three of us who, Steve, Dave and myself, and we were putting $30 a month into a bank account that we shared with our name was living green, renewables back then horrible names super long, but my wife drew the logo. So you couldn’t say no to that until someone, I had coffee with the marketing gal and she goes, first thing, change your name, do it today. Don’t look back. I was like, I started to explain to her how my wife had drawn the logo and she interrupted me. She goes, I don’t care about your wife and what she drew for you, you change your name, you change the logo. And we kinda knew that because it wasn’t a real marketable name. And plus we’d become a solar company.
Nathan Young (00:14:33):
I’m so glad that you, this might, this is probably a stupid thing to say it, but I’ll say it anyway. Caitlin on my team is going to yell at me for saying this because it’s dumb, but it feels like you were able to take the advice because it was a woman who told you, rather than the dozens of dudes who might’ve shown up and been like, like, we, we can’t throw shade. You know what I mean? Like you’re never going to listen to us, but when another woman finally showed up and was like, look, I can get on the level with your wife. I get why she did it. I understand. Change the thing.
Martin Morud (00:15:06):
Right. Yeah, totally. And she had major street cred too, you know, and I had none, I had zero. Right,
Nathan Young (00:15:15):
Also I assumed that she was a professional and career experts chosen just some random coffee shop person, but like yes, of course. Okay. So you, so you change the name, you have been at this for over a decade now, since that moment of being like, so it sounds like Medtronic sort of kicked you in the pants. Right?
Martin Morud (00:15:36):
Well, I felt that way and for a long time, and I still do sometimes feel like, did I have too much, you know, retribution or, you know, get over it, sore feelings, kind of things like, no, you know, that stuff drives you and don’t hide, you know, or block the things that drive you, you know, like that’s that that’s, I think shortchanging yourself and the fact that someone in that organization thought I wasn’t good enough to keep on, you know, they could have laid other people off. They didn’t have to lay me off. You know, it’s all, it’s just a business decision. Don’t take it personal. It’s like taking it personal is a major reason. You know, I think from some of the success I’ve I’ve had I mean the other success is my back success was my back was against the law. I had no money.
Martin Morud (00:16:29):
I got laid off a month and a half before we got married. You know, I mean, it was like every there’s lots of people who have been laid off and I kind of feel sorry for those people that don’t take it personal, you know, like then it kind of you off. Somebody thought you were dispensable right there. There was somebody else they could have laid off [inaudible]. And I know there’s all kinds of, you know, rules, HR
rules about who you can and can’t lay off these days, but still, you know, I think it’s okay to get off when somebody tells you you’re not worth keeping her home,
Nathan Young (00:17:07):
Seth Godin, I have this book right here and it’s called what a, what to do when it’s your turn. And then the subtext here is it’s always your turn. And it’s this idea of like the person who should be the one to give you permission is you. And when someone else tells you you’re laid off, right. It’s someone else saying you don’t have permission. It’s not your turn. And that should you off because you’re the one who gets to decide that. Yeah. So I’m, I’m totally with you when someone else says, no, I get to decide whether it’s your turn. You should be like, no, screw you. Right.
Martin Morud (00:17:50):
So I took it and ran with it. I mean, we saved up, we put 30 bucks between the three of us. So 90 bucks into a bank account a month for about a year and a half, that was like 15, 1600 bucks. And I don’t know if my math is right there, but we had enough money to buy three white embroidered polos that said living green, renewables, we got an entry booth into the St. Paul home and patio show. I mean, we still had a rain barrel on display because we didn’t know if we were going to sell rain barrels. Cause that was like crazy back then our solar, but I knew that nobody, I had this concept that nobody would buy solar unless they understood it unless they could feel it touch it. You know, they had to believe in it. People just don’t buy something.
Martin Morud (00:18:35):
They don’t understand for sure. It’s a super frivolous, you know, keeping up with the Jones’s kind of purchase. I said, oh, we’re going to be the first solar company to have a booth where we don’t just have a panel on display. We have a whole array on display. We have a roof that shows the flashings and the racking and the grounding and the inverter and the panel. And this is how it works. People can walk into the booth and get a full fledged explanation of, of how it works, play, you know, follow the photon, follow the electron. And we were able to convince one, a gentlemen named Denny who had just sold his dentist business. And he’s making his goal is to go to the home and panty show and make improvements in his home that would reduce his annual cost. Cause he was going into retirement, inflation security, I guess, for lack of a better term.
Martin Morud (00:19:35):
Right. And he went to the home and patio show thinking he was going to buy geothermal and he walked away buying one solar rate. And that was your one customer that day. Well, yeah, and we had had, I had teamed up with some colleagues in that class and stuff before that. So it wasn’t our first project, but it was the first project. We were able to charge full price and make a decent margin on. And we reinvested all the margin back into the business. Of course it wasn’t the original catalyst. I mean, that was probably our fifth or sixth project, something like that. But it was the first real one that we sold to a non-family friend, all league kind of thing. You know,
Nathan Young (00:20:19):
Jeff Bezos, I was listening to this is too much, too much context, but we all pare this down. I gave way too much context. Jeff Bezos has a video that he released when Amazon acquired zappos.com. And he tells this story of the first days of Amazon when he talks about Zappos. And he’s like, he tells this story about how they had a bell that rang every time they got an order from the website. And he says, now
I’m thankful to say that eventually that bell got annoying. Right. Which was a good sign. But it used to be that there were so few orders coming through in the original days that we would all huddle around the computer and look to see the contact details. And you know, someone would be like, oh, that’s my mom. Oh, that’s my mom. And he’s like, I remember the day, I remember the moment where we all huddled all six of us or whatever, huddled around the computer. And we all looked at each other and wait, is that your mom is that it’s not your mom. It’s not my mom. It was like, we didn’t know the person. And it was like this sort of magical moment of being like, oh, we’re in business. Yeah. And so it sounds like you’re saying something like this just struck that car. Oh yeah,
Martin Morud (00:21:36):
Totally, totally similar. And you know, sales sales has its cycle. It’s funny you say the bell, we use an air horn. Nobody’s been in the office for the last, you know, 14 months. But back when we were all in the office and stuff, and somebody made a sale, you know, the air horn to go off and jump, you know? And it was a blast. It’s just some good, you know, camaraderie the good days you hear three or four air horns, you know?
Nathan Young (00:22:04):
Oh my gosh. That also, yeah, that would scare the bejesus out. Oh, all over again. Okay. Okay. I know
that I’m supposed to be happy about that. I’m just so mad at you for having done that.
Martin Morud (00:22:15):
It’s breaking some rules. I’m sure.
Nathan Young (00:22:17):
So now you’ve been doing this thing. You’ve been growing your company. It’s been a decade. You got your first you’ve re like that was the, we’ve had some of these turning point moment. What are some of the surprising things? Maybe the top three things. If I can ask you, what are the top three things that you would say, man, we really hit our head on this thing. Maybe whether you expected it or not, it doesn’t have to be something unexpected, but just like give me three examples of something where you smacked your head on it. And you were like, oh, that was that’s. That was painful.
Martin Morud (00:22:54):
Knowing when to hire your first employee, especially for somebody who’s never had a business before and never had employees and not knowing, you know, I’m kinda the person that second guesses myself, I’m a slow processor as my dad would say, you know, trying to do it all and not realizing you could do more if you had a helper kind of thing. And I had some mentors that I had kept up with regularly and a guy named Marty who is now a retired on a remodeling service for, gosh, I don’t know how long decades and decades here in Minnesota, he was kind of mentoring me a little bit. And he said, you, you got to get off the roof. You can’t, you know at the same time my brother was giving me the E-Myth books kind of pushing you. You got to work on the business, not in the business, you know, and that was kind of a big first thing.
Martin Morud (00:23:51):
And then it actually took there’s a program called Cytec experience that for kids in junior, senior year in science backgrounds technical degrees to get them out into internships. And I hired an intern and they, we got a $2,500 back, you know, half of their wages were covered for the summer. So I said, oh geez.
You know, maybe I can make it. Maybe I can afford $2,000 this summer just to have a helper. That’s what it took. And it came way too late. But anyway, you know, that hiring your first employee was a big thing that seemed like a big deal at the time, looking back at it, I don’t know why I was so, you know, worried about it. You just didn’t know. Right, right. You didn’t know. And quite frankly, didn’t really know how to, I didn’t have the volume to make it easy calculation, you know?
Martin Morud (00:24:46):
Oh, I could get one and a half. I could get 50% more projects done. Right. You know? Well, we were still, you know, there’s still be four months go by and I didn’t bring home a single project. Right. You know, I think at that point, you, when I hired that intern, I had like three projects lined up for the summer. I was like, okay, there’s going to be enough time map out all the weeks that that person could help us, help me on the installs. And when they’re not, they could do XYZ. And it’s kind of still how we think about it. Right. You know, I got 24 employees right now. And even when you hire somebody new, you know, maybe you have six months of work lined up for them, but that’s it. Right. You know you don’t hire somebody for five years, although once you hire them, I feel you have a responsibility to keep them employed too
Nathan Young (00:25:34):
Well. And do you think maybe that feeling too, that that feeling of responsibility is something that was
sort of holding you back?
Martin Morud (00:25:41):
Well, the intern was easy because they had a start and an end date, you know,
Nathan Young (00:25:47):
How long am I responsible for this person? Nine?
Martin Morud (00:25:51):
Yeah. So, I mean, that’s one of the things that I really, and then like a year later I was still in the field. Like I was helping a friend install a system on a weekend with our post driver, our poster, our original post driver. This, you drive posts into the ground to, to build a ground Mount, right? Yeah. The original post driver we had, I think I borrowed a Bobcat and borrowed this post driver from an excavator up in Bemidji. And the the pile driver was a log splitter. It must’ve been 30 or 40 years old welded onto a plate vertically. So log splitters are like this, right? Yeah. This was a log splitter that was super old welded onto a plate. So I was like this way, but then they put a cap on the bottom kind of like a, you know, just a metal flat flame with a bunch of rocks in there.
Martin Morud (00:26:46):
And then you pull the hydraulic lever, lift it up and you pull the light hydraulic lever and it just smashed down. Okay. Yeah. Super wonky, nothing straight everything’s kind of farm welded together. Put it on some Bobcat attachment thing. And I was up there on Memorial day in 2014. I think it was. And by that time I had a few employees, but I could not get out of the field. I still felt like I had to be there for some reason. All the more reason I didn’t have a good process for anything, because I feared that if I wasn’t present the train would go off the tracks. Right. So I’m so I’m up there and I lost track of what I was doing and I put my thumb on the wrong place. And so I smashed my thumb real bad. And that’s what got me out of the field.
Martin Morud (00:27:38):
Like, I don’t know what would have happened. Had that not happened. I still probably would have been forcing myself into the field, but I, now I’m out of it. I cannot do any installation work and there’s a sink. There’s a single nerve and every one of your fingers, but there’s two that goes to your thumb and I smashed it. Wasn’t a cut. It wasn’t a, I mean, it was just a flat flat. Yes. Oh my gosh. And it grew back kind of, nobody will do that, but yeah. So that got me out of the field and that was the true, you know, hiring an employee, work on the business, not in the business, you know, I think I’m sure there’s lots of books about just getting out of the way, you know, sometimes, you know, so that was, that whole journey was, was probably a big one for me. I love their growth, quite frankly,
Nathan Young (00:28:32):
What I love this saga. So far of your dad being like, so Marty doesn’t want it. And then you being like, I’ll do it. And then Medtronic being like, you’re disposable and you being like, you Medtronic. And then being like, I can’t leave the field. And then this crusher thing, just being like, get off the road,
Martin Morud (00:28:52):
Like, right. Like you always need
Nathan Young (00:28:54):
To get kicked out of something, but then as soon as you get kicked out, you’re like, you know what, I’m going to kick at the next thing now, like, right. It’s, it’s just like this saga is really fun. And I’m sure like, I’m I’m sure this hasn’t been every single thing in your whole life, but
Martin Morud (00:29:13):
Probably has. I’ve been doing endurance racing now for like 23 years. And the very first race I did was because our high school, outdoor adventure teacher was like, I bet you guys can’t finish it. No, we’re like, we’re going to finish it. When I was at Medtronic, my manager was a marathon runner and there’s a Medtronic twin cities marathon already. You should sign up, you know, you’d love it. You know, it it’s like a marathon. No, thank not a chance. Not interested. I’ll run five miles, not 26. Right. And then he kept on just really getting after me. It’s like, oh, you should really do it. You should really do it. And finally, one day he swings by my desk and he’s like, you know what, you’re right. Marty, maybe you can’t do it walks away. And I signed up within like two minutes, you know? So I don’t know. It probably is with everything. Your wife
Nathan Young (00:30:09):
Knows this about you on like a deep level. Right? Like, I don’t know, Marty. I don’t think we can get
Martin Morud (00:30:19):
She would. She’s never you that one person in my life who hasn’t told me, I can’t do something. Right.
Like her, she would never say anything like that. I guess I get a mix of both in my
Nathan Young (00:30:33):
Life. That’s fantastic. And also, I mean, like talking about this, it’s like to be able to tie those things together. It’s so funny knowing that you have that type of a trigger in your life too. The first one was
hitting your head on that employee, that first employee and the second one really was like getting yourself off the roof out of the thing. And it seems like that was a real struggle for you also. So I want to move from there and I want to ask you this other question, and you mentioned this kind of your very first customer, right? And you walked in, I was fascinated, by the way you said you’ve laid out this booth. Like you didn’t just bring the panel. Right. And the panel is sort of seeing it, like, I think even still a lot of the articles that I read, talk about increases in like panel efficiency and like solar cell and the blah, blah, blah, blah.
Nathan Young (00:31:28):
And I’m going, I mean, it’s, it’s all the sexy stuff, right? Like it’s all the exciting, it’s all the buzzword stuff, but you’re like, no, there’s a person who has to have somebody go nail this crap on their roof and what, you know, like that’s their house. Like, how do they feel about that? What what’s actually happening, what’s happening to their home. And so I wanted to ask you now having read, E-Myth having originally had that idea to like walk somebody all through, like, what’s this like as a new homeowner, like people want to know what happens next. Right? Like, and I think the public is becoming more educated about this. You know, they’re like, oh, I, you know, I’m, I’m looking into solar, I’m thinking about solar. And it’s like, cool. Yeah, we can, we can go. And we can do this walk through, like help us understand. What’s the process like as a homeowner, what happens next? You know, nobody nobody’s gone through this before and neither have their parents most of the time. Good
Martin Morud (00:32:28):
Question. Yeah. I mean, we, we, we put tens of thousands of holes in people’s roofs for a living too, you know? And I thought, I thought originally people really wanted to how we do that and how we keep their roof safe. I think customers don’t want to ask either, like, I think that’s kind of, some of them do and no, we’ve never had a leak. So you’re asked about sales process essentially, right?
Nathan Young (00:32:55):
Yeah. Yeah. Homeowner is interested in having solar. If I’m interested in replacing my water heater or getting the HVAC fixed or whatever, I can probably call my dad or my grandpa if I don’t know. Right. If I’m like, I’m in my early thirties, I’ve experienced this, but like my friends call me or they call their parents and they’re like, what do I do? You know, like, who do I call if I find a good plumber or if I find a plumber, like what what’s going to happen and people want to know like, what happens? And so that sort of that, like what, what happens? How, how what’s the process like?
Martin Morud (00:33:29):
Yeah. Well, and this has evolved over time too, because as people get more educated and more comfortable, more confident in renewable energy, I think the sales process has shifted any sales process shifts and becomes more mature when there’s a higher volume of sales, you know, going on as well. But I remember so back in 2012, 2011, 2012 timeframe, when I was like, okay, I’m going to get into this for real. I volunteered at the Minnesota state fair at the eco booth and people would come up and they, you know, what a great place to hone in your craft and just talking to people about something, you know, a lot about that they know very, very little about, right? All the attention is on you because you’re delivering what they want, you know, and they want to learn. But the first questions they asked 10 years ago, it wasn’t even a question. People would show up to the booth and say, it doesn’t work here in Minnesota, that’s for California. Right.
Martin Morud (00:34:41):
And, and then we would, the, the answer would be well, Germany, you know, we have more sun than Germany and Germany’s number one in the world for solar. Yes. Yes. It works here. If you can get a sunburn here and I see today, sir, you have a sunburn from walking around all day today at the state fair, you can do solar. That’s all it is. It’s just a sunburn. And then, you know, a year would go by and I’d volunteer safer again. And the question coming in was how does it work? So already the market was taking shape just from, you know, education, news, media, whatever it was circulating out there in society was getting people more interested educated, comfortable, and confident in solar. And so, you know, the first year it doesn’t work here. Right? second year, how does it work?
Martin Morud (00:35:37):
Third year? How much does it cost? And then it was, it was this big transition. How do we get started? You know, we, we were actively, we’re a volunteer group at the eco experience and we weren’t selling and we couldn’t sell and you shouldn’t sell in that arena. Right. But people were there going, okay, where can I get started? Are you installer? Can I get your name, a number? You know, that’s how that, that’s how the Minnesota market evolved over the last 10 years. And now it’s pretty straightforward. And I remember five years ago, we did a lot of work on educating the potential buyer. We thought that if they read our blogs and news and this and whatever, and we had a 30 page solar, one-on-ones like, if you read all of this in, you’re still interested, you’re as qualified of a lead as you’ll ever be.
Martin Morud (00:36:30):
You know, trying to just educate folks. So have more qualified people reaching out to us. But, but nowadays, you know, we go through the same process as any, you know, sales organization. Would you get leads, you get qualified leads. You propose to those qualified leads and you close sales. You know, it’s a, it’s a hunt and gather not hunt and kill because we’re consultative approach to sales and your marketing and advertising breeding bleeds in. And if you do enough education or if it’s a mature enough market, they’ll, these are generally qualified. But you still have to qualify them. We asked for two things, you have to have a space, three things. You have to have a space to do it. If you have a north facing roof only, and no ground Mount space, well, you’re not qualified if so you have to have the wherewithal or the space to do it too.
Martin Morud (00:37:27):
You have to have the financial interest. And I won’t say you have to have cash ready, or you have to have a budget. You have to be able to pay for it or finance it. And there’s plenty of financing options out there. And rarely do we ever see anybody not qualify for financing one way or another people can make it work. So that’s number two. And number three, you got to give us your electric bills because so much of how you size a system upfront is based on what you consume and a 1500 square foot, south Minneapolis home, you know, you could be growing some of that basement for all. I know, you know you could have a walk in freezer. I don’t know. You could crank your AC down to 50 and have terrible installation installation. So it, there’s a big range of usage and you have to have that first.
Martin Morud (00:38:24):
So that’s what qualifies a lead. Then you design a proposal. There’s been a lot of work getting people off the roof for assessments, OSHA doesn’t require ropes and safety for assessments or for owners, maybe I’m sure there’s more to that rule than what I just stated. So we don’t ask our sales team members to get on people’s roofs. We try to avoid that at all costs. Not because we’re comfortable being inaccurate,
but because we’re not comfortable taking safety risks, given the volume of which we do this app, you know, if we get, you know, 10 leads for every one contract that signed that, and we do, you know, a couple of hundred projects a year, that’s getting up on a roof two or 3000 times for assessments only, right? You just can’t take those kinds of safety risks. And so we have Google Minnesota, solar rap, all kinds of different tools Eagle vision or whatever it’s called that we use to stay off the roof, but you, you propose a a design and see if it works for folks. There’s a lot more to it there, but I feel like I should hurry up. This has taken too long, huh?
Nathan Young (00:39:45):
Oh, you’re fine. As in our podcast producer, we’ll edit half of that all the time. He will, he’ll chop off a bunch of this stuff that I’ve said so far in order to make it shorter. Right. I have this question then, which is a stupid question. I know, but I can’t help but ask it, which is so like, I have a roof, but I rent it. So I haven’t purchased my house yet. We’ve rent our home right now, which I have a particular want to do, but that’s just me. I love the idea of having solar. And I’m also really into the idea of our next vehicle being an electric car. And so I’ve been dead set on getting a Jeep grand Cherokee since like 2013. And now I just like over the last two years, I’ve grown this like deep passion of like the net zero emissions concept and like all of it. And so now I’m like, I can’t buy that car right
Martin Morud (00:40:44):
Now. It’s gotta be a Caribbean, grand Cherokee Wrangler or whatever they are. Right.
Nathan Young (00:40:50):
So now I’m like, okay, well, what do we get? But I like, because we rent our home, I cannot, I can’t approve solar being installed in the house. I’ve already checked with the actual landlord and they’re not interested right now. And I also means that I can’t have a charger installed. Right. So like I’m Sol in all cases. And frankly, if I bought a house, I would still be Sol because the idea of building that extra cost, right. It just freaks me out. I’m just not the kind of person who can, can think of expense on that scale. And so I’m like, okay, well, here’s a thought, and I don’t know why this is more comfortable to me, but I was just chatting with a friend over a beer the other day. And we were like, could you put enough solar to charge your car on like a flatbed trailer and like drag it around. And I also watched this YouTube video about a guy who like got an RV and got a fully electric RV and then installed enough solar panels on the RV that he’s like now he’s like a traveling battery. And so I, I have to ask this question is how big do I need to get this
Martin Morud (00:42:04):
In order to charge my car? That’s an interesting question. Well, I mean, Minnesota has a residential solar market, a commercial market, both small and large commercial. I mean, shopping malls, hospitals, schools, but also small businesses, lots of incentives and stuff available. And then we have community solar, which is like five acre fields, you know along an X XL distribution line. And then we have utility scale stuff. Like what’s going up in Monticello, you know, taking up hundreds of acres the community solar we’re one of the only states that has that, that has every single market kind of firing on all cylinders. Don’t get me wrong. There’s all kinds of other opportunity. And we need to do more and more and more as a policy side. But the fact that we have, you know, all four of those markets up and running in Minnesota is hats off to our policy makers.
Martin Morud (00:42:54):
But the community one is designed for you. You know, you can, you can subscribe to a community, solar garden as a renter. And, but, but you probably have, it’s like a magazine subscription, you know, sign up. And if you normally pay a hundred bucks a month for electricity, you can get a hundred dollars credit on that. Now, instead of paying an XL, you’re paying the garden for the other. Right. And they probably aren’t going to sign you up month to month, like any lease, but they are, I think the attorney general has said that they have to be cancelable. Is that a word? I don’t know.
Nathan Young (00:43:33):
Well, I understand what you mean though. You have to be able to break out of it. Yeah, you’re
Martin Morud (00:43:37):
Right. And so when you buy a house, you could either transfer that subscription or you might be able to cancel. So I don’t know, what’s in subscription agreements these days so that you should be able to do. I would, I would push landlords to do it too, because why are you paying for your own electricity? Yeah, I’m paying for my own electricity. So I would try to get my landlord to do it. If they’re not interested, they probably don’t fully understand the upside for them, including tax credits, depreciation incentives, and delivering renters, what they want, which keeps them around longer too.
Nathan Young (00:44:16):
I’m in for everything you said, I do still want a yes or no to my stupid idea. Can you technically do an
installation on like a portable thing? And it still has to be useful, not with
Martin Morud (00:44:32):
The EVs as they are today. Okay. You know, I mean, you can put a bunch of panels. So, so, so electric vehicles take AC power to charge. They can take DC as well. I think some of the Teslas take DC and the superchargers and panels or DC with would come. The electrons coming out of panels are flat-lined in an indirect current. So your car doesn’t want that kind of juice. Right. You know, it wants the same juice your coffee maker gets. And the only way to get that coffee maker juice is to put an inverter in invert the power from DC to AC. And you do that. It makes it single phase, 240 volts, 60 Hertz, you know, it it’s grid ready, appliance, ready, EVP vehicle, ready power. You could put an off grid inverter in place. And when the sun is shining, you know, turn that inverter on, it’ll kick out AC. And that AC power would go to your car. That is a possibility like physically, it is probably pretty expensive in Minnesota. If you buy a kilowatt hour for 10 cents, you can sell it back for 10 cents. So why go the off grid route when, you know, if your car is not parked there on a day like today, it’s nice and sunny. You’re just wasting it. And the only way you get payback on anything is just use it. Right.
Nathan Young (00:45:58):
Very good. So basically the answer is it’s technically feasible, but also, yeah, it’s a stupid idea.
Martin Morud (00:46:05):
Yeah. It’s, everything’s technically feasible, you know, I don’t get it. Okay. But, but now the RV guy, right.
He still has a gas RV. Don’t
Nathan Young (00:46:18):
Think so. Pretty sure it was a full conversion.
Martin Morud (00:46:22):
That’s really tough to pull off, especially if you’re going long distances. So yesterday I drove from Bemidji to Somerset, Wisconsin where I live just across the border. I drove 250 miles and I used about 80 kilowatt hours, but it’s not like I was using, you know, it’s not like I used 80 kilowatt hours, 10 kilowatts at a time. Like if you looked at the usage, they XL instantaneous usage I’m place. You know, when I hit a stoplight and I accelerate, I crank all the way up to a hundred KW, a hundred KW project. It’s probably a half acre. That’s not going to fit on a flat bed. That’s not going to fit the RV. So there’s a, there’s an instantaneous, you know, and you have to have a hundred KW inverter, right. To handle that if it’s coming from a DC battery source. So yeah, I suppose you could accelerate really, really slow and then hit top speed and just hope the wind’s at your back. Hope that it’s sunny, wherever you arrive. And if it’s not prepared to sit there for three days, right. What I’m
Nathan Young (00:47:41):
Picking up so far is it’s a little more complicated than slap some panels on a yes, we’ve come a long way in like what this is and it’s it’s hasn’t, but it certainly hasn’t made it to the level of commodity that a lot of other home services have made it.
Martin Morud (00:47:59):
Yeah. It just it’s just with batteries, the energy you can put into a battery and save and use later, isn’t really an issue. Most home battery systems are probably 20 kilowatt hours. 20 kilowatt hours would get me through 99% of all outages. Right. That’s enough energy. However, I can’t run my well pump because when my well pump comes on, it’s surge is so high that the inverter can’t handle that. So I I’ll use 20 kilowatt hours, but it would be lights, chargers, a TV, your microwave, dishwasher, laundry, but only one of them at a time. Right. You know, to go back to the car thing, it’s like, you can have a battery, it can store enough energy, but to hit, to accelerate from zero to 60, you have to have this huge capacity. Otherwise it’ll take you three minutes to get there. Fascinating. That’s a, that’s a big issue right now with home battery systems is a lot of them are like 7.6 KW and 7.6 KW is enough for a few appliances, lights, outlets, that kind of thing. But you can’t open your garage door, run your microwave at the same time. Mm.
Nathan Young (00:49:18):
A lot of it has to do with that initial spike. Exactly. You don’t just have to build the system to be able to handle the quote load. You have to be able to, you have to build the system to handle like that. Those spikes basically. Yeah.
Martin Morud (00:49:34):
Energy and capacity are two different things. Energy is power over time, kilowatt hours. And we don’t seem to have an issue. You know, Tesla has got a hundred kilowatt hour battery 80 kilowatt hour battery, and those are affordable vehicles, you know? That’s not the problem getting an inverter connected to them that allows you to do whatever you want with that battery at any moment’s notice is an issue.
Nathan Young (00:50:06):
Andrew, as I have, I want to ask you this one more question and then I’ll wrap. Cause this has been, I’m like, I’m ready to go into the deep, right. I have so many questions firing off my brain. Why are we still using AC power instead of DC power? Like how can I get a better inverter? What about the new stuff
coming on? But like, so I have all the I’m like, oh, you’ve opened up the flood gates of my curiosity now, man. So right about that moment, I’m like probably this is where I should get rolling. So then I, otherwise I would just keep like, have you ever been to the, like the roller skating rink and you play the arcade game, right? And then it gives you three tickets and then you like try to slowly keep pulling the tickets out. I don’t know if anybody else has ever done
Martin Morud (00:50:50):
That, but that is an amazing idea.
Nathan Young (00:50:54):
I’ve D I’ve definitely done that and gotten like an extra a hundred tickets. That’s what I’ll do all day. Once somebody gets my curiosity running, I’m like, why don’t you just give me five more minutes? Why don’t you just give me, so I have this question, which is, who are the best partners. So I ask guys this question all the time. I don’t, it doesn’t seem to be a very popular concept within home services to partner with other companies. I think there’s a decent amount of still a fear or concept that like, oh, if I refer a customer to somebody else, they’re going to like take that customer, unless it’s like my best friend John or whatever who owns the, and so even though you might do completely different things, there’s sort of this stigma of disclosing that, which to me is weird. Cause I’m like, look, if the homeowner needs the thing, they’re going to go get the thing.
Nathan Young (00:51:49):
Like you either get to have it within the circle you choose, or the person’s going to choose their own. But so I think there’s this disconnect and I want to try to close that gap if I can. And I want to, I want to help get this idea out here. So like solar is different than roofer. What other like roofers are sometimes guys who do sighting and sometimes not. And so like who is the best partner for you? Right? Who else do you guys need to have on call or who, who is the next best person to be like, oh, if only every company that was this type of company knew a solar company also like we would make a great pair. Who, what are those pairs?
Martin Morud (00:52:35):
Good question is solar. Solar is the installation, technically the installation of electrical apparatus and therefore anyone who installed solar does need to have an electrical contractors license. Okay. It’s for the state of Minnesota anyways and most everywhere else, I think is pretty similar nowadays. But we’re not roofers right yet we do a lot of work on roof, you know, rough, some put holes in people’s reels for living. We have, there’s very limited portions of the solar installation, like the attachments, the flashing, the initial rail, you know, installation, although rails are a grounding pathway. So that’s where it gets really complex in terms of license requirements. And you have to, anytime you do electrical work, have to maintain a two to one ratio, a one licensed person for every two people. A lot of times we have four person crews out there. And I think most installation companies do to have one licensed person, two electrical apprentices, and one labor slash carrier slash moving material kind of, you know call it the new guy or something like that.
Martin Morud (00:53:47):
But yeah, but you know that is in compliance, but if we, we don’t pretend to be roofers either. So if we run into a roofing situation repair or something like that, we call in our subcontractor. Shawn Luther, who comes in and he is a roofer, that’s his thing, you know, part other partners boring. It’s not that it’s
boring, it’s boring. We, you know, labor, I mean, nobody wants to get hired on to dig a trench, you know, and, and it’s not even, it’s not profitable, right. Even if you have a Bobcat or a walk behind backfilling in the mess, you know, so we, we are boring most of our projects. And so having a good bore company that can come in and just get it done so that we can focus on what we’re good at and not break our backs, doing it.
Martin Morud (00:54:51):
That’s been really successful, you know, for us, that’s it though. I mean, we’re an electrical contractor, we’re a building contractor. We do pretty much all of our own work. We have an electrical subcontractor that we’ll use from time to time. We pride ourselves in doing everything ourselves so we can keep control of quality timelines, schedules, communication, all those good things. Right. But if it comes down to somebody else’s tax credit and getting their project in by December 31st, you know, in, in order, the only way to do that is to use an electrical subcontractor for some assistance, you know, then we’ll bring them in and we’ll, you know, no contractors ever flat line, you know, it’s always schedules changing all the time. You know, you ha you have to be a good partner with all of the authorities having jurisdiction, the permitting folks, they, I think know more about solar now than they ever have, of course.
Martin Morud (00:55:47):
And so permitting for solar is pretty straightforward these days. We’re still educating some AHJs out there, but the last nine years haven’t been like that. And so just being willing to, to explain and talk through projects with permitting officials, billing officials has been huge. And then the utility, you know, the utility has got all the control in this whole market. It’s like utility versus policymakers, policymakers paved the way create these statutes, which are just cracking the door open so that we can do more clean energy for our state and making a meaningful difference in our future energy recipe while the utilities want control over that. And in order for us to move smoothly through these processes, we just have to be good partners in, you know supporters and stewards of the utilities process. But that has been, excrutiatingly painful. You know, it’s such a David and Goliath thing for solar companies of any size, because I don’t care how big your solar company is.
Martin Morud (00:56:49):
The utility is bigger and you know, sometimes you just feel pushed around and it’s I, I look at all those books on your shelf right there. Yeah. I mean, anybody wanting to run a solar business can read all the books for management tactics or whatever, but eventually you’re going to read all those books again, to give you some ideas on how to manage your relationship with the local utility. Interesting. It’s the, I think the hardest part in this industry can’t live with them and you can’t live without it. It seems, you know, so those are the partners. I’d say, I don’t know if I,
Nathan Young (00:57:29):
No, that was great answer. I mean, basically it’s like on the lowest end not lowest, but maybe like the most straightforward, the most straightforward it sounds like is if you’re a roofer and you don’t have a, if you don’t, if you haven’t picked up a buddy, who’s a solar installer, you need to get on it, go find a friend. Who’s a solar installer, go make a friend because at some point that guy’s kind of probably call you. And so you should have that sort of relationship. If you’re a guy who digs holes, you should go get ahold of us solar company. And frankly, if you’re an electrician in general, go make friends with a solar
company because at some point you may be dealing with something that they don’t quite have the expertise for, or they may need another licensed person on, on a project or you’ve right.
Nathan Young (00:58:17):
I can’t imagine how often this happens, which is the homeowner’s like, well, I have licensed electricians here. Can you guys, you know, like I also have this other problem or you’ve run into something further down in the house or whatever, that’s weird. And then you’re like, guys, you know, like our projects are set up that we installed the thing, you know, like I don’t, I’m not going to go in and fix this stuff inside in your light switches and how every time you do the thing, like blows up the fuse. So let me call Frank he’s my guy. So that, that would be, I think the most straightforward, if you’re those three guys get ahold of the solar company, they’re going to need to call you sometimes. And maybe you’re going to call them because the resident, the person who owns the house is going to be interested in doing that stuff. And if you know the guy, if you’re the guy, then you can continue improving that relationship. Right? Yeah.
Martin Morud (00:59:06):
I totally agree. I mean, solar is a very unique product to put on a shelf, you know, like all other construction companies, you know, we have the same process you contact to contract. Everybody’s got to get through that one contract to construction. Everybody’s got some process to do that construction, to commissioning and commissioning, to closeout. I call it the five CS of solar, but it should really be the five CS of construction at the basic level there. But internally we have over 120 steps to get us just from a contract to commissioning. Yeah. You know, and, and we get three different inspections, building inspection, electrical inspection, and utility inspection, all the design, the interconnection, the permitting, the procurement work. And we still see other contractors try to be that for folks. And I think this is the point you were driving home. There is get to know a solar company because sooner or later one of your clients is going to ask about solar and your ability to handle it with intelligent answers or hand off to a professional.
Martin Morud (01:00:18):
That’s going to make you look real good in front of your customer and all that trust respect. I remember like eight years ago, I was in a group called NARI north American remodelers, something like that. And I thought I would join that group to get referrals. What I really got was a bunch of mentors, you know, a bunch of business owners that knew what they’re doing. And I could just, by being aware in that arena, I could absorb all of these good things. And I quickly learned that that’s not the place for referrals, but it is the place to, to learn about each other and to earn respect of one another. And I, a couple of people would want to pass leads back and forth. It’s like, Hey, if I get you this, you know, I pass on this referral to you and they, they go forward, you know, what do I get?
Martin Morud (01:01:10):
And it was kind of like a finder’s fee, you know? And so, and I remember talking to one gentleman, he came over and said the same thing as like, Hey, I got somebody we’re doing a project for them. It’s kind of a whole retrofit job. And I think solar would be really good. They seem like the kind of, couple of the interest in this, would you be interested in taking a look? And I said, absolutely. You know, what do you want for a finder’s fee? I was a kid amongst, you know, mature business owners and contractors feels finder’s fee. What do you mean? It’s like, well, you know, this becomes a project. Don’t you want something in return kind of thought that’s what he wants. Like, no, I, I, I just want my homeowner to be satisfied in really well taken care of. Can I trust you to be that person?
Martin Morud (01:01:56):
That’s like, whoa, cool. They don’t have to pass gift cards back and forth anymore. You know, like we can all work together. And you know, that’s just, that’s huge. I think that shows the true maturity of any market and the fact that non solar people are connecting with solar people and recognizing it as a mature market. I think it means a lot to me personally and professionally, you know w w nobody would ever have thought to say what you just said 10 years ago, certainly in Minnesota partner with a solar company, get to know a solar person. Yeah, no, you know, so it’s kind of proof that we’ve come a ways here.
Nathan Young (01:02:44):
Awesome. I’m glad to hear it. That is all the questions that I’m going to allow myself to pull out of you today. Thank you so much for your time. It’s been fascinating. I, I’m excited to get to ask you more in the future. Although I’ll try to be gentle with my gigantic list of already. Can you answer these other 27 things, you know, while you’re doing your actual business stuff? So well, I careful what you allow me if people want to get a hold of you and obviously they should. Where do they find you?
Martin Morud (01:03:19):
Yeah, so I, I own and operate true north solar. We’re at Arden Hills, Minnesota, and you can reach out to us through our firstname.lastname@example.org and contact us there. If you’re interested in solar, we do solar, residential, small commercial, large commercial. We’re doing a big manufacturing plant this year, and I’m sure we’re doing a small Minneapolis garage next week someplace as well, ground mounts, roof, mounts, sloped roofs. You know, we pride ourselves in delivering renewable energy to anyone that wants it. We work in Western Wisconsin too. So that’s how to get ahold of us anyways and appreciate the time today. Absolutely.
Nathan Young (01:03:59):
And that’s true. North T R U north solar.com no E in there, correct. I’m sure that if you search T R U E north solar, then you’re still going to pop up. You’re going to find them in a Google search, but also T R U north solar.com. And I can confirm that you do projects both large and small because I run by a little garage that has three panels on it, like every other day. And you have the little yard sign out, front use, yard signs, you guys, and there’s a yard sign out front that says true north solar. And I run by it and I’m like, oh yeah, I’m already did a thing there. Yeah. So anyway, it has been fantastic having you on thank you so much for your time. And yeah, that’s how you get ahold of Marty. And that’s how you get some solar in your life. All right. Peace out, everybody.
After starting his career as a medical device engineer, a surprise lay-off left Marty unsure what to do. His dad’s interest in installing solar panels at home gave Marty a great idea, and soon afterwards TruNorth Solar was born!