How to learn how to fail

Tony Thornton, chief executive of market leader Solar Shop, is the market leader in a rapidly growing sector. But while the company started in 1999 and now turns over $71 million, Thornton still describes the past few years as a “nightmare”.

“Growing the company has been a nightmare, because in a way we are creating an industry. We deliver 25% of solar systems in the market, we’re the largest supplier by double, and challenges have included finding people to hire who simply don’t exist.”

“There is no single entity to recruit from, and we’ve had to invest, train them and do that very, very quickly. And with no one to follow, the industry sort of watches us, and whenever we do something right that rolls on, and whenever we make a mistake it’s avoided.”

He says start-ups need to be prepared to fail and make mistakes.

“Being at the forefront of an industry, there is something going wrong every day. We’ve certainly failed in a number of ways, because we are creating an industry and don’t have anyone to copy off.”

“As soon as we roll something out, you make a lot of mistakes and you have to create a culture that says it’s okay to do that, it’s okay to learn from them and move on quickly. When we do something right, others copy us, and when we make a mistake they learn from that and run with it.”

Read the full profile of Solar Shop and chief executive Tony Thornton.

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