Interview with Entrepreneur - Jayson Waller - Founder and CEO of PowerHome Solar
Raised in a trailer park, kicked out of high school and faced with becoming a father in his teens, Jayson Waller’s hustle, heart and toughness allowed him to overcome adversity and become the mogul he is today. Jayson has built three companies from scratch into multimillion-dollar enterprises. His most recent endeavour is POWERHOME SOLAR, which has grown to over 1,600 Employees and nearly $500 Million in Annual Sales, since its launch in 2014.
Jayson thrives on hearing the word “No” and using the doubt of others as fuel to propel himself forward. His drive led him to become an Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019, a successful podcaster and an author.
In our interview with Jayson, we explore his background and entrepreneurial journey.
Hello Jayson. Thank you for participating in this Q&A session. We would like to start by exploring your origin story. Please give us an overview of your background, initial career aspiration and your entrepreneurial journey to date?
Jayson: I didn’t know what I wanted my career to be, and I didn’t attend college, but I found I had a knack for sales. I worked for companies like AT&T and Verizon, but found myself getting passed over for promotions I deserved based on results. I’ve built thee companies into multimillion-dollar enterprises (two from scratch), and now I lead POWERHOME SOLAR, which is my biggest venture yet.
My partners and I have the goal of taking the company public one day, to reward the employees who helped grow the business. We now have over 2,000 employees, which is really exciting. At the start of 2020, we had only 750. We found a lot of customers had the appetite for improving their homes during the pandemic, and investing in a solar panel system was one way they did that.
What would you say are the key challenges you have faced as an entrepreneur, and how did you navigate them?
Jayson: Because of cash-flow issues in the early days of POWERHOME SOLAR, I had to sell my home to get the cash needed to extend the life of the business. It ultimately paid off, considering POWERHOME SOLAR generated $365 million of revenue in 2020.
I’ve found that you need to pay your people first, your vendors second, and yourself last. The company will pay you back one day.
I always want to reinvest in the business to do everything needed to keep it growing.
Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any past or present business leaders?
Jayson: I pivoted to solar after seeing another home security entrepreneur, Vivint’s Todd Pedersen, make the same move. I thought if he could succeed, so could I. One of the lessons in my new book, “Own Your Power”, discusses the ability for anyone to create his or her own map. That’s what I did in pursuing the solar industry. I had my vision of what I wanted my life to be, and I followed that map. I’m so happy I made the change.
In general, what do you attribute your success as a business leader and entrepreneur to?
Jayson: I’d attribute it to relentless work ethics and the drive to prove naysayers wrong. None of my colleagues in the home security industry thought I’d succeed in solar, but now many of those same people have asked me for jobs or how to get involved in solar themselves. That’s the greatest compliment, to turn haters into fans.
Please tell us what initially attracted you to the solar and renewable energy industry?
Jayson: I just saw it as the future. Clean energy needs to be the present too, and I wanted to be on the cutting edge of an industry that had more room to grow than the home security industry did. It’s turned out to be the right decision.
In the span of 7 years you’ve grown your company, POWERHOUSE SOLAR, into a billion dollar revenue generating business. How did you go about this?
Jayson: After struggling at first, when I hired for skills rather than passion, I found people taking advantage of me, and not buying into the type of culture I wanted to build. I wanted people to rally around the brand and care about it as much as I did. Once I cleaned house and fired 80 percent of my employees and started doing things myself, I was able to chart a path where I could teach leaders the way, and better yet, find people who could make more leaders. That’s how the company has grown. Nearly all of our leaders on the sales and installation portions of our business started at the bottom. It’s given everyone a good taste of what it’s like to build a company, and appreciate what we’ve built.
What’s the geographical reach and expansion plans for POWERHOUSE SOLAR, if any?
Jayson: POWERHOME SOLAR is in 15 states, and we want to become a company doing business nationwide. When others ask how that could be possible, we answer it by saying, “Why not us?”
In 2020, you launched the True Underdog Podcast and it has since grown to be one of Apple’s top 3 Entrepreneur podcast. What’s the origin story behind this podcast and who is your target audience?
Jayson: Actually, the podcast has achieved a Top 3 ranking now among Apple Entrepreneurial podcasts. When I won an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Southeast Award in 2019, I was asked to write a book or start a podcast. It’s hard for me to choose between the two, so I did both. The podcast came first, and it’s awesome to see it has more than 1.5 million downloads to date. My target audience is would-be entrepreneurs who want to grow like I did. In helping the next generation of leaders, I feel like I’m giving back the way I want to, and the way I know I can. I’m super excited about my book coming out later this year too, as it discusses lessons learned on my entrepreneurial journey.
Additionally, how did you grow your podcast to be the success it is, in less than two years?
Jayson: I’ve grown the podcast like I’ve grown my businesses – by taking the stairs. There’s no elevator to success.
I just grind every day to get better, and I have a great team that helps me line up guests and opportunities that can enhance my presence and public profile even more.
Everyone thinks success happens overnight, but it doesn’t. You just have to stack wins upon wins, and that’s what success is.
Before we conclude the interview, what advice do you have for new and aspiring entrepreneurs trying to launch/grow their business?
Jayson: One additional lesson from my new book is really helpful for aspiring entrepreneurs, and that’s this:
Scared money don’t make money. You have to be willing to risk it all on your idea to be successful. Otherwise, you’re never going to realize your full potential.
I did that in selling my house just to keep POWERHOME SOLAR going. I had to go big, because I wasn’t intent on going home. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am today.
Thank you Jayson for participating in this Q&A session, we wish you and Power House Solar all the best?
Jayson: Thank you!