Written by The Business Journal Staff
CEO, Chris Moran
What we do: I am the CEO and founder of a local solar firm that has expanded to cover nearly 60 projects a month. The Solar Negotiators’ team focuses on providing the best buying experience for our clients. We accomplish this by bringing together premium equipment installed by quality local contractors at unmatched prices. Our team is guided by a firm belief in honesty and integrity when dealing with their customers, suppliers, employees, and community partners. We help our clients find the most effective, cost-saving solar systems to meet their individual needs.
Education: I received my Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, shortly after serving six years in the United States Marine Corps, said Chris Moran.
Age: I just celebrated my 30th this year. I started the company in 2009, at the age of 23.
Family: I come from a long history of entrepreneurs, Sebastians of Sebastian Enterprises Inc. Those roots have influenced me to stay in the Valley, close to home with my wife of four years Sone, and my two children.
Tell us the story behind Solar Negotiators, Chris Moran?
After returning from a deployment in an Iraqi war zone, I purchased my first home. Shortly after having solar installed, I could see the benefits clearly and noticed the right market conditions for the industry to take off with the subsidies from the state and federal government. Knowing that I had no interest in becoming a contractor, I started a small company in my garage working with a local contractor as a sales agency selling directly for him. After a couple of years, I realized that if I could get a network of contractors to compete for the business that our company originated, I could build a model around the volume and efficiency. We went from doing an average of 10 projects per year for the first two years, to now completing more than 350 per year since 2014.
What is the advantage of your business model for the consumer?
The advantages of the business model are the same that exist in insurance, travel, mortgage lending, and any other mature markets where an independent company can find efficiency by connecting buyers and sellers of a product. We take on the risk of marketing the benefits of solar and the costs of selling the project. However, we also provide any administrative assistance to contractors (that does not require a contractor’s license), making the project more efficient. This includes assistance with project management, coordinating pickups of payments that are made out to the contractors, and utility interconnection paperwork, which can be very cumbersome. Also, because of the volume we sell, we are able to negotiate with a distributor’s network-wide buying power to drive down the cost of products. Because the contractor can focus on their proficiency of installation and design, we can focus on everything else. This provides a more streamlined process and experience for the customer at a lower cost.
Where do you see Solar Negotiators in ten years, Chris Moran?
In 10 years, Solar Negotiators will likely be a holding company for several supporting companies. We already have two other corporations which focus on after-care and monitoring of solar systems. Because a solar system is quite literally a moneymaking power plant on the rooftop, it requires a certain amount of quality assurance monitoring, service and cleaning to ensure optimal output. We see ourselves assisting customers with the long-term care and maintenance of their solar systems.
What are the roots in the Central Valley? We understand you come from an entrepreneurial family, Chris Moran?
In the U.S. Marine Corps, I was a motor transport and refuel or operator. Or to put it simply, I drove trucks. I had the honor of serving next to some of the finest Marines in Iraq from 2007 to 2008, with 536 rotary wing and fixed wing aircraft refueling missions in a combat zone. My job was to drive the 5,000-gallon tank in convoys in the middle of the desert waiting for helicopters who did not have sufficient fuel to return to base and needed a refuel point outside the wire. I learned how to lead in business by learning how to follow in my military service. I had phenomenal leaders. I was also fortunate to grow up in a family run business here in the Central Valley with more than 200 employees that has operated for 70 years. Sebastian Enterprises Inc. is made up of several companies. As a third-generation shareholder, I have the opportunity to sit in on all corporate board meetings and learn corporate strategy, how to take care of your employees, and how to manage finances during an economic recession. My family has entrepreneurial roots going back three generations. My mother’s parents started and built Sebastian Enterprises Inc., and the family still manages and owns the business to this day. My father’s parents bought and operated KHOT, the No. 1 Madera radio station from the mid ‘60s to the mid-1980s. My grandfather specialized as radio personality, making his living with his voice and his children. My father became a dentist and ran his practice for 35 years in the same location near the Madera Community Hospital and sold his practice to a dentist who still operates in the same building with the same patients.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it?
My very first job was working for a general contractor at the age of 15. I gave up my summer weekdays to work full-time over the course of two summers to save enough money to buy a used Toyota as my first car. I learned that nothing in life is free, and that you do not understand the value of a dollar until you earned it.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Chris Moran?
In my spare time I hang out with my two sons and my beautiful wife. I attend church, and I sing every opportunity I get. Singing is a passion and I have the honor of performing the national anthem for the Fresno State Bulldogs at baseball games, football games, basketball games in the Save Mart Center, and softball games annually. The Fresno Grizzlies also have me perform, and I was selected to sing the 2015 Pacific Coast League Championship where the Grizzlies won. I also have the honor of singing for several veterans’ events around the city.