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Meet the member: The entrepreneur powering disaster recovery

Meet the member: The entrepreneur powering disaster recovery
Enterprise Nation
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Posted: Fri 26th Feb 2016

Jason O'Connell has created a business that provides mobile sources of power used by the military, disaster recovery agencies and engineers. He tells the story and inspiration behind Solstice Power Solutions.

Jason O'connellWhat was your motivation to start your own business?

I've always had the feeling that I wanted to be my own boss, but equally I was driven to make sure that I was in secure employment. As my career progressed it became clear that the way for me to get true job satisfaction was to start my own company. At the time I was working hard to bring in work for a corporation that ended up disappointing customers and turning down some excellent opportunities. I thought that there had to be a better way, a more customer focused, relationship driven way to get power to the people who need it, and there was.

Whilst you were starting up how did you balance home life with work?

I think I'm still going through those challenges now, and I'm supported by a very understanding wife! It's hard to not respond to a email or messages while at home as I want to be responsive and sometimes feel like I might miss out on an issue or an opening to place our products in front of customers. I realise that I've become one of those people always with a screen in front of them as I don't want to miss any opportunities and want my customers to be satisfied, so I've set a day a week that I go without any electronic interaction (Sunday digital detox day!). I'd certainly like to be able to hand more off and delegate some of the business functions, and look forward to being able to do that as the business grows.

What's your top tip for effective sales and marketing?

I'd have to offer two here if I may!

First, build a solid relationship with your customer. One sale is a good start, but knowing what they want and being able to interpret their goals into your solutions is vital for a successful long term relationship. I want to be the reason that they are successful. I want to be the person that they pick the phone up to if they have a question, even if it's not related to my products or systems. Be the 'go to guy'.

Second, I live and die by the phrase 'say what you'll do and do what you say'. It's so important that you commit and deliver repeatedly. It's only through this way of working that your customers will build up trust in you and come back to you.

Which tools could you not live without in your business?

My Macbook! No doubt it is the single most important piece of equipment I have. The apps that are available now for businesses are fantastic, and very affordable for cash strapped start-ups. Everything from taking mobile payments at trade shows, to project planning; it's all vital for the operation of the company.

What movie, song or book offers you the most business inspiration and why?

I have a lot of top films, but I'd have to say that Apollo 13 is the one I can watch time and time again. The events of that mission and what they accomplished with the technology they had available is staggering. The leadership shown by the flight controller (Gene) I'm sure played a direct part in motivating the whole of NASA to lead the crew to safety. It absolutely shows that if you surround yourself with successful people, you and your business will be successful if you lead and inspire them rather than manage and order them.

SolsticeWhat's been your biggest business success to date?

I was thrilled when we won our first major order last year. There is little to beat the feeling of completing a sales process from contact through to delivery. I've been lucky enough to win multi million pound deals throughout my career, but even though the first order for Solstice Power Solutions was significantly smaller in terms of size and scope, the fact that a customer has placed their trust in me to deliver for them is a great feeling indeed.

If you had to live on a desert island with one entrepreneur who would it be and why?

It would have to be Elon Musk. He is the biggest technological revolutionist on the planet since Steve Jobs. His attitude towards knocking down barriers is inspiring, and he really is pushing the boundaries of where humanity and technology can go. If we're on an island, I'm sure he'd be the man to come up with an idea to get us off!

What are your ambitions for the next five years?

My primary goal is of course to grown the business substantially. Solar power and energy storage is rightfully getting a lot of headlines at the moment, but it's clear that the industry still has a long way to go. I want Solstice to be the company that helps get power to remote communities in Africa, puts mobile power in people's hands, and is used by first responders. We have our challenges, not least with feed in tariff reductions in the UK, but I think we stand an excellent chance of fulfilling our plans over the next five years and beyond. On a personal level, I'm a chairman of local rugby team, Girling RFC, so I'm looking forward to hanging my boots up and watching the club grow on and off the field!

How does being a member of Enterprise Nation help your business grow?

I've found Enterprise Nation to be an excellent source of information and contacts. I was fortunate to attend an event in London recently which offered a fantastic array of companies detailing how best to access them, or accessing government directly. These weren't just large multinationals sending in a presentation, they were real people who were happy to talk, engage, email, meet, and discuss all to support small businesses. UK SMEs are certainly being heralded as the vessels in which the UK economy is growing, and Enterprise Nation directly supports the government's economic growth plans, and UK SMEs' growth plans.

For more information visit the Solstice Power Solutions website and follow the company on Twitter and  Facebook.

If you'd like to join Jason and become an Enterprise Nation StartUp or Small Business Classic member to access exclusive benefits, sign up now and we'd be happy to profile your business.

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You can meet lots more Enterprise Nation members here.

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Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.
 

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