Part 2: Building an Industry Leader: Thoughts from Uplight’s Founders

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I continue my conversation with Uplight founders about what it takes to make a successful integration, speaking with Bruce Towson (Ecotagious), Aaron Goldfeder (EnergySavvy), Swap Shah (FirstFuel), Yoav Lurie (Simple Energy), Justin Segall (Simple Energy), and Adrian Tuck (Tendril). If you missed the first part of the interview, catch up here

We’ve been a unified company for a little over a month. In that time we’ve launched a new brand and new solutions. What has been the key to making this a successful integration?

Justin: Purpose. Mission. Core Values. Operating Principles. 5-year targets. These foundational elements of culture create alignment across our team on why we exist as a business, what we do, who we are as people, how we operate, and the big hairy audacious goals we’re tackling. This unifying foundation has helped provide clarity, motivation to action, and rallying of spirit and action. 

Yoav: One of our core values is “One Team.” We believe deeply in the criticality of all being on one team—no silos, no fiefdoms and no politics. That has never been more important than it is in these early days of bringing the companies together. We’ve asked everyone to shed their “old jersey” and don the new Uplight jersey. And the team has responded incredibly well. Being on one team has created contagious enthusiasm as everyone is “leaning in” to what we’re doing.

Aaron: It’s a cliche to say, but shared culture is the key. The kinds of people our companies-of-origin attracted are mission-driven, client-focused, intellectually-honest and just genuinely good people that put team and results over self. When you have that kind of culture in place, it’s a solid foundation from which to get the work of integration done. 

Swap: The effort and time put in by management to visit and spend time with all the distributed offices and teams, and the regular, transparent communications across the company. I’ve been through three mergers before this one, and never experienced this level of deep engagement by teams across remote offices and HQ.

Bruce: The cultural fit, the warmth of the welcome and the open-minded inquisitive nature of the team on how we can build Uplight have been key to the early success of the integration. 

Adrian: The new brand, and the story behind it, really work. I couldn’t be happier with the process we took to get to the name and logo, how we rolled it out and how well it has been received in the market. 

Is there anything that surprised you?

Justin: It’s been surprising to see how quickly a group of people can rally together as one team. From the beginning of this process when people took off their old jersey and put on the new one, it’s been incredible to me to see what bringing the best and brightest of the industry could do together. Each week or two I look back and say, “Holy cow, we got all that done in the last week?!?!?”

Aaron: I’ve been amazed by the high quality, ego-free conversations we end up having about how to serve a utility partner or move the ball forward. I end up jumping into calls with numerous people I’ve never met and it’s like we’ve all been on the same team for ages. That’s been a lot of fun.

Swap: Not yet, and that’s a good thing! It’s a true testament to the integration efforts.

Adrian:  A lot of people have had to deal with a lot of change.  I have been amazed and humbled by how well everyone seems to be working through the transition.

Is there any advice that you’d give to other companies going through a M&A process?

Justin: Start with asking why. Why do you exist as a company and what is the most important thing? If you could get a lot bigger, faster, and scale your impact, would you do it? If so, figure out the best way to scale that impact. 

Aaron: Tough to say, as doing it once does not qualify me as an expert. I’d say be lucky enough to fold in with people you admire, trust and that share the same values. If we had been bought directly by some mega-corp I could imagine it being really awful. 

Swap: Cultural fit, open two-way communications in person, respect and embracing the differences go a long way in retention and productivity.

Bruce: Like in all transactions, make sure the cultural alignment is strong and the level of bi-directional trust is high, it will make everything that follows much easier!

Adrian: Start with mission and values—everything else flows from there.

Thank you, Aaron, Bruce, Swap, Yoav, Justin, and Adrian for speaking with me about this incredible journey. It’s only getting started—stay tuned for more Uplight updates! 

Thought Leadership

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