Like father, like son. Heuson Bak was so impressed by his father’s solar home installation that he investigated the technology further and, heavily influenced by his father’s entrepreneurial bent, followed in his footsteps in 2008 by starting his own solar installation business.
That’s despite building a career as a commercial pilot. Yet Heuson took the plunge and hasn’t looked back since, with 140 employees across Australia now, and his company has grown to be one of the largest residential and commercial solar retailers in Australia.
“In 2007, my father installed solar for his home during a time when government incentives were extremely attractive. It made sense to get solar power as it saves homes and businesses so much money on electricity bills, while helping the environment at the same time,” Heuson tells The CEO Magazine.
After numerous challenges as he lifted the fledgling business off the ground, now that its future is more assured, Heuson has recently focused on building its growth curve. Like most owners of small businesses, his hard-earned experience came from taking on whatever tasks needed doing in its early days, so he is well equipped to understand the day-to-day operations of the company.
“Solar Naturally was started in 2008 as a startup without large capital. I had to be involved with all facets of the business to get it off the ground,” he recalls with a smile. “There isn’t a role I haven’t personally tackled in the business. I’m still heavily involved on a daily basis, but my role is to lead growth in the business and ensure our short-term and long-term targets are being met.”
Heuson sees solar energy as a primary source of power for Australia in the very near future. Solar uptake is growing exponentially as the increase in installations of storage batteries makes the change away from the energy grid all the more attractive.
In fact, not even the COVID-19 pandemic derailed solar energy’s acceptance and implementation. Heuson notes that solar installations increased during the pandemic as people realised that insecure incomes and social disruptions like lockdowns reinforced the value of being more self-sufficient in people’s lives.
As a leader it’s normal to encounter failure, setbacks and roadblocks. I don’t focus on the problem – my job is to work with my team to find a solution.
“COVID-19 has no doubt thrown a few curve balls, but the number of solar installations has broken a new record during the pandemic,” Heuson says. “According to the Clean Energy Regulator, rooftop solar installations increased by 40% during 2020. I personally believe the uptake of solar will only get stronger due to households using more electricity than ever as many people have shifted to working from home. They are all looking for a solution that will help them save money on their rocketing electricity bills.
“Solar Naturally is heavily invested in our growth in Australia. Our turnover exceeded A$50 million in 2021 financial year, an increase of 35% since pre-COVID-19. People are moving away from conventional energy sources as it is no longer sustainable. We are invested in the solar battery market, which has gained a lot of traction in the past couple of years. Clients are showing a huge amount of interest in the technology. I believe this will be a huge area of growth for us in the years to come.”
Heuson puts the company’s success down to a simple formula of employing the right people and ensuring that every project is completed precisely as promised. Integrity and honesty go a long way in a highly competitive market, he says.
“One of the principles I live by is to deliver on what I say. We have experts in every department who always ensure we deliver on what we promise. Our clients include many high profile businesses that choose us because we have a great reputation in the industry, and we are experts at what we do,” he points out.
With some solar installations around the country raising questions about their viability and quality, Heuson has a straightforward and fail-safe strategy to avoid them. He uses only reputable wholesale suppliers such as One Stop Warehouse for all his equipment and supplies.
“I’ve known Anson and Jeff from One Stop Warehouse for quite a while now,” Heuson says. “They are the largest solar wholesaler in the country, and we have a great relationship both in business and personally. We started working together in 2014 as they had access to exclusive products, and combining our purchasing power together with theirs meant we got better pricing and unbeatable warranties. This gave us a huge edge in the market.”
Heuson rates tenacity as his ticket to business success as solar energy inexorably becomes the mainstay of the energy industry. Pushing back against adversity, not giving up and having the best people to call on in tough times are his advice to new entrepreneurs.
Aussies lead the world
Australian homes have the highest rate of solar installations in the world, with more than 15% of homes now powered by solar energy. Belgium is second at about 7%.
“As a leader, it’s normal to encounter failure, setbacks and roadblocks. I don’t focus on the problem – my job is to work with my team to find a solution and make things work,” he says. “All our employees are completely married to our vision. We are a high performance organisation and our people are extremely competitive. We only work with people who want to succeed and hold the same values as us. One of our most important company values is passion. Our employees are enthusiastic, full of life and extremely passionate about their roles. If you are passionate about what you do, you will always put 100% into it. That’s the reason we are so successful at what we do.”
Heuson takes inspiration from the likes of Sir Richard Branson in his approach to business, and saw opportunities as an early solar technology entrepreneur. He read the trends accurately, and attributes that acumen to his penchant for innovation and new technology.
“I was very motivated to scale the company quickly. I have a lot of respect for Richard Branson, his ethos, and the companies he has built. Giving autonomy and constantly pushing people to innovate and being accountable for things big or small made lots of sense to me, and is in line with how I manage my people,” he says. “The best advice I ever received was don’t chase the money. Be passionate and love what you do. Money follows naturally.”
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