When Zain Jan first came into my network I could immediately notice his expertise. Right away, I knew that he was a great fit for Future Sharks so I decided to bring him here.
The first thing you notice when speaking to Zain is his energy and very positive entrepreneurial attitude. Throughout his life, he has been focusing on developing a great team, character building, and the achieving goal after goal incessantly.
With extensive leadership experience and deep analytical thinking skills, he has been able to incorporate certain core principles into building high performing teams in numerous sales models/channels. One of Zain’s core strengths is in monitoring operational performance and proactively identifying opportunities for operational improvements. With business discipline, focus, strategy, and clear performance management, Zain has had tremendous success in a myriad of business markets. Today, I wanted to discuss his latest venture which involves solar energy. Hope you enjoy this interview!
City where you’re from: San Francisco CA
Hobbies: Reading, working out, entrepreneurship,
“There’s lots of bad reasons to start a company. But there’s only one good, legitimate reason, and I think you know what it is: it’s to change the world.” – Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote.
Great having you here Zain, tell us more about the work you’re doing with your solar company Sungrade.
Zain Jan: I’m building a residential scale solar energy company, called Sungrade Solar. We analyze and install solar panels on residential roofs helping homeowners reduce their electricity bill by up to 30-50%. Sungrade Solar is a part of the new class of Social Benefit Corporations (B-Corp). Sungrade honors a “triple bottom line,” focusing on people, planet, and profit. Sungrade focuses on residential solar installation, direct sales, logistics, and software development.
How did you come up with the idea for Sungrade Solar?
Zain Jan: I helped run one of the largest offices at Tesla owned, Solar City. After becoming extremely successful in the solar industry, I partnered up with Aaron Katz, a well known CEO in the Solar industry, and Owen Gintis, a retired high frequency trader on wall street. I also brought along some of my best friends(Mikey, MJ, Juan, Andrew, Samir) to help start the sales component of the company. Without them we wouldn’t have got to where we have.
How is Sungrade competing among other solar companies?
Zain Jan: We recruit young and hungry professionals from all over the nation, and plug them into the #1 sales training platform on the planet, Cardone University. Many companies in the industry don’t provide proper training and guidance for their team, we make training our top priority.
Through clear communication, our executive team provides feedback with full transparency, a problem I have seen in many companies. Our leadership has created a great sales team by developing more efficient data and logistical processes. We make sure our sales cycle is simple for the customer and for the sales rep. We have found that many companies in the industry have extremely complicated sales processes, we decided to take a different approach and make our process extremely simple. Because of these reasons, we have been called an anomaly by many power players in the industry such as Spruce Finance, Sunrun, and Solarcity.
Since you mentioned sales training, what is something you can teach us about selling?
Zain Jan: In sales one of the biggest mistakes people make is not asking for the close. Many people drag their pitch on for too long, it’s important to ask for the close in the first ten minutes of your pitch. If you are not able to close at that point, just get back into your pitch, and ask for the close 5 minutes later.
In terms of marketing, how does Sungrade Solar reach new customers?
Zain Jan: We attract new customers by merit of word of mouth. Our clients usually refer their friends to us because of our advanced technology and great customer support. Also, we occasionally use Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Youtube advertising.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
Zain Jan: When I first took the leap of faith and decided to start my own company, my parents supported me but still had doubt and were scared for me to fail. My aunts uncles, cousins, all thought I was crazy. At first I was scared to tell them I would never be going back to school in the near future, so I told them that I would only try this for one semester. Looking back in hindsight, I would have communicated my intentions clearly and told them I had to do this for me, or I would regret it.
What were your biggest failure and biggest success? What did you learn from them?
Zain Jan: My biggest failure in business was not firing fast, and my biggest success was learning clear communication and how to handle all issues with full responsibility and transparency. I learned to always follow your gut, no matter what. If you see a cancerous person in your organization, fire them immediately, if you drag this on it could ruin your team’s morale and have a much larger impact than you may think. Handling all issues by taking full responsibility, and communication with transparency makes all parties feel way better.
What do you look for in a business partner?
Zain Jan: Choosing the right business partners is so important, so here are my top tips:
- first off make sure you guys get along. You don’t have to have the same vision, or have the same political thoughts, but you have to respect each others’ opinions and communicate with an open mind.
- You have to make sure your business partners have their ethics in line, and would never lie or hide something from you, no matter what the circumstances are.
- Make sure you know your business partners’ expectations of you, and what they expect out of the business.
- Make sure you know how committed they are to the business, and how much time they are willing to and can dedicate to work.
What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained?
Zain Jan: Coffee always helps me, but I usually do as much activity as I can to get myself back on track. Most people believe they have to slow down, but for me I think I have to do more to get charged back up. I believe one loses energy but not having enough to do, or losing a sense of purpose in their work.
How do you believe evolving technology will impact the way we do business over the next 10 years?
Zain Jan: I believe business will become more effective especially with the development of artificial intelligence. I think this will make business processes and strategies more efficient, and more economically viable. I think it will be easier to do business with the right people, and technology will help you make better decisions. On a personal level I beleive people that challenge the status quo, and disrupt the marketplace will have more success, and those that don’t adapt will lose their jobs.
What is the most unpopular opinion you have on entrepreneurship?
Zain Jan: I think many people sell entrepreneurship to the world as this glorious thing that is so easy and lucrative. In reality 99% of it isn’t glamorous, but it’s head down hard work. If you don’t want to sacrifice time with family and relatives, and give up weekends, it is not for you.
What advice would you give to other millennials?
Zain Jan: Focus on the macro-vision instead of the micro-tasks. I see a lot of millennials seeking instant gratification and losing track of the long-term goals and vision. It is quite sad to see many millennials trying to work on many different things rather than putting their passion into one project and ensuring its success. It is better to dive deeper into one thing and becoming an expert at it than exploring a bunch and becoming an expert in none.
Drawing back on your experiences, what would be your best entrepreneurial advice for anyone reading this?
Zain Jan: No matter how you feel, whether it’s positive or negative, don’t let it get to your head. Sometimes we feel amazing, and let that control our emotions, therefore causing us to make irrational decisions. Sometimes we feel bad, and this causes us to quit. No matter how hard it is, try your best to stay level headed.
What should an entrepreneur focus on?
Zain Jan: I think entrepreneurs should focus on surrounding themselves with the right people, and finding a great team they can build an empire with! Having a great team is so underrated, and in business it can make or break you.
What are some of the best books you’ve ever read?
Zain Jan: Be Obsessed or Be Average – Grant Cardone
Benjamin Franklin: An American life – Walter Isaacson
Managing Oneself – Peter Drucker
Contagious Why things catch on – Jonah Berger
Last one to close it all. What’s the big vision with Sungrade?
Zain Jan: Our goal with Sungrade is to provide clean and affordable power on a global scale, while maintaining the highest standard of quality using state of the art technology, and keeping a remarkably accelerated timeline. We also spend a lot of time on developing a youthful and energetic culture focused on health, self improvement, ethics, and financial success. My goal is to continue to build with these principles as we continue to scale nationally.