Thomas Neyhart serves as CEO of PosiGen, a leading provider of residential solar PV and energy efficiency solutions. Founded in 2011, PosiGen’s mission is to make a positive financial impact on customers’ lives by providing green energy solutions to low-to-moderate income homeowners. PosiGen has helped more than 10,000 families in New York, Connecticut, Florida and Louisiana save money with the company’s unique solar and energy efficiency solutions.
During Neyhart’s tenure as CEO, PosiGen has been named to the Inc.5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies List for 3 years in a row. Under his leadership, PosiGen has raised $125 million of equity, $ 275 million of tax equity and has established credit lines totaling more than $ 150 million. The company was awarded the Patriotic Employer Award by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. PosiGen has won Best of Home Solar Installer numerous times. In 2015, Neyhart’s company was named one of 27 Coolest New Businesses in New Orleans by Business Insider.
Under Neyhart’s leadership, PosiGen forged a partnership with Connecticut Green Bank to bring Solar and Energy Efficiency to low-income communities and communities of color in Connecticut. That program not only succeeded in exceeding parity in those communities compared to more affluent communities in less than 5 years, it has also won numerous awards from Harvard and the US Department of Energy.
Neyhart was named one of Goldman Sachs’ 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs of 2014. He is a past president of the Louisiana Rental Dealers Association (for 5 years), was named APRO’s Rental Dealer of the Year, Utica Rentals Franchisee of the Year and Top 10 Franchisee of the Year (8 out of 9 years). Neyhart is an invited speaker at renewable energy and construction business forums and a sustaining member of the Society of American Military Engineers. He serves as a contributing member of NREL’s Solar Futures Study Technical Review Panel and is also a member of the Energy Sector Team of the City of New Orleans’ Office of Economic Development.
Where did the idea for PosiGen come from?
My wife Lisa and I were seeing a lot of people struggling to take advantage of the different programs that were available to all homeowners in Louisiana post Katrina. We saw that people in affluent neighborhoods were getting their houses rebuilt, getting houses elevated and getting solar and energy efficiency through the available programs, while the low-income communities were not able to access these programs as readily. We thought that we could give back to the community by helping low-income families access the programs. After looking at the available programs and how we could help homeowners, we decided that if we could give low-income families and communities of color access to low cost solar, we could give those families immediate savings. By doing so, we would put money back in their pockets and we could make a difference in that way.
We quickly realized that solar alone would not give adequate savings – even with the substantial incentives at the time – so we decided to pair energy efficiency with solar. We created a no down payment lease that included both solar and energy efficiency and started educating low-to-moderate income families and communities of color. Prior to then, there were no for-profit solar companies that combined solar and energy efficiency or focused on the families that needed help the most.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical day includes interfacing with our sales and operations teams, talking to community leaders and working with stakeholders to continue to reach as many families as possible to save as much money as possible.
How do you bring ideas to life?
If someone brings a new idea to the team we work through a vetting process to make sure it adheres to our core missions: 1 – Does it make a positive financial impact for the families we serve; 2 – Does it have a positive impact in the communities we serve; 3 – Does it reinvest in our team members; and 4 – Does it help save the environment. If the new idea aligns with our core missions, we discuss implementation and how it can/will have the greatest impact.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m really excited about the ESG Movement. I love seeing people focusing on making a difference in our communities including saving the environment, social justice and governance. These are all things that PosiGen is very passionate about.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I feel that rising early, going for a run and working out contributes to making me more productive as an entrepreneur.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The main advice I would give my younger self would be to think bigger, sooner!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Very few people outside of PosiGen believe that LMI families pay their bills. However, if you provide a good service and they see the value, these families pay as well or better than more affluent families.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I would have to say the one thing I recommend is NEVER QUIT!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The most important strategy that has helped me grow PosiGen is continuous optimism and always instilling the belief that we can do better, be better and get bigger. It then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We experienced lack of funding due to our focus on LMI families. We went out and personally guaranteed loans, continued to take high interest debt to prove out the transaction, and eventually were able to secure more institutional funding.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The one business idea I would love to see someone develop would be a foot pedal opening mechanism for the inward side swing of doors. This is especially relevant now while we are in the middle of a pandemic.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought a Sonic Waterpik and love it!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I love Audible since it allows me to listen to books while I run or workout.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The one book I recommend is, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson.
What is your favorite quote?
A few of my favorites:
• If anything can go wrong…fix it, to hell with Murphy!
• You can’t talk your way out of something you acted your way into.
• The Pessimist Sees Difficulty In Every Opportunity. The Optimist Sees Opportunity In Every Difficulty. – Winston Churchill
• Hope is not a Strategy and Try is not a Plan!
• Think bigger! Do better, be better and get bigger.
• Do something that benefits those in need.
• Never give up!
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.