Founded in 2014 by Matt Lisac and Matthew Lannigan, National Solar Distributors services the solar PV (photovoltaic) market Canada-wide, with clients coast-to-coast installing products for small RV off-grid systems to large-scale commercial power-generation installations. A third friend and co-worker, Réal Bouchard, later joined them to round out the executive team. With over a decade of experience each in the industry before founding their business, they quickly identified a market underserved by distributors after a multinational distribution company, and now former employer, had pivoted to other opportunities.
For Lisac, it was paramount that National Solar operate solely as a distributor, forgoing the option of expanding into system installation services — a move often made by their competitors to negate the risk of potentially bidding against their own customers. This dedication to fulfilling a specific position in their clients’ supply chains has allowed National Solar to make customer service the focal point of their operations.
The customer experience is paramount
Lisac explains, “We focus as much as possible on the customer experience and expectations. We concentrate really hard on the way we communicate with customers, phone and email etiquette. If an issue comes up, the first question we ask ourselves is: ‘How would we want to be treated as a customer?’ That’s how we guide all our staff.”
This commitment to their clients’ experience — some of whom have been working with them for a decade — is reflected internally in the ways in which National Solar has worked to engender and grow their company culture. “It’s a really nebulous term but it has concrete impacts on your day to day operations,” says Lisac. “How to communicate what you want your corporate culture to be, and how people treat each other internally as well as how we treat our customers.” He also admits that, as the company has grown, maintaining and fostering culture has remained a steady, but worthy struggle. “It’s something you take for granted when you work for a company but then it becomes harder the bigger you get as you manage a company,” he adds.
Be of service outside of the business – in your personal life
An area of internal importance for National Solar is work-life balance, something that wasn’t always present in the organization, particularly in its earliest years. "During our first year, we didn’t have work-life balance, but we went into this knowing that starting a business is extremely difficult and really labour intensive,” Lisac admits. “For awhile, we just didn’t have it. And that was very challenging.” Though, as the company has grown from just five people to 16, work-life balance has become not just a possibility but also a goal.
“We actively try to foster with our employees and ourselves to emphasize work-life balance,” says Lisac. “If we notice people are starting to burn out a little bit, we try to talk to them and say it’s time to take some time off.” This mantra extends to management as well, which includes the company’s founders.
Lisac further explains,
“We don’t have that sort of cultural expectation in the management group that we’re all entrepreneurs so we have to work 80 hours a week. There’s really no point in doing that long-term, there’s no point in working if you’re not able to be of service in the rest of your life.”
CWB as a partner
Lisac, Lannigan and Bouchard have found CWB willing to work with their company in a greater capacity than other financial institutions, especially when they were a young business. “They were excited to work with us when we only had a year and a half of financials,” recalls Lisac. “CWB wanted to help us grow for that year and a half. We didn't have to artificially slow down our growth as a company.” In addition, Lisac notes that CWB has helped make connections for him. “They have really great networking events, and they make sure we feel included in those. There’s a round table with key clients each year, and we get to learn from companies in other markets and listen to their clients.”
On a fundamental level, Lisac values the fact that CWB works with people as a partner. “With our previous bank, we were just an account and a paycheque to them,” he says. “They didn't have any interest in going out of their way to help us with anything. With CWB, it really is a conversation both ways. They’ll do the work to learn about you as a customer and will do their best for you.”
In closing, Lisac summarizes, “Business banking is still a person to person transaction. CWB really supports that and makes sure the branches do that well. We’re just thrilled with CWB as a partner.”
CWB is here to support companies throughout every stage of their business. Speak to a CWB advisor today to see how they can help your business grow.