Featured on e27: Plus Solar Looks to Driving Resilient Leadership in 2021

14 Dec 2020

As the end of year approaches, Plus Solar was able to reflect on how 2020 was both a year of change and breakthrough in terms of not just business was has been, but as a company. We shared our insights with e27, an online platform that covers Asia’s start-up and tech ecosystem, to share about the Malaysian clean energy sector and the leadership that was practiced by our co-founders during the pandemic. With the ongoing economic challenges, businesses had to reinvent their business operations and energy was identified as one of the top main financial concerns of business owners.

To address this concern, we launched our energy performance management system (EPMS) and zero upfront CAPEX financing solutions to enable a higher accessibility for them to garner energy-saving solutions for their businesses.  Ko Chuan Zhen, our CEO and Co-Founder, was able to share more with e27 about these solutions and how resilient leadership is a key driver during unprecedented times.

Read the e27 article by Ko below:

How to use Maslow's hierarchy of needs to drive resilient leadership in 2021

How does a leader focus on staying afloat whilst keeping the team motivated under such extreme pressure? Here are four lessons that I have learned in reflection from the pandemic.

COVID-19’s third wave of infections continues as the numbers rise, and the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) in Malaysia is potentially extended further. Since the first lockdown, more than 30,000 SMEs have been forced to close down as conditions worsen.

How does a leader focus on staying afloat whilst keeping the team motivated under such extreme pressure? Here are four lessons that I have learned in reflection from the pandemic and each other which we hope will also see us through as we brave through uncertainties leading into 2021.

Safety and security – Maslow at work

Plus Solar began in 2012 with just four employees. Fast forward, we have 150 employees, with many in the range of 25-35. In finding their career path, many of them seek purpose in belonging which was greatly challenged with the pandemic.

Image Credit: McLeod, S. A. (2020, March 20). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Simply Psychology

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs resounded loud and clear when the pandemic struck. The company needed to give employees a sense of safety and belonging, whilst retaining their self-esteem, in the midst of the crisis.

This was not easy, but we reassured the various teams of their importance to the company’s continued function, even more so at such a pressing time.

With constant reassurance and transparency about how the company is coping, we found that employees stayed motivated in spite of pressures and continued striving towards company goals.

Close communication between leaders and team members

Adapting to working from home was challenging. It wasn’t easy to motivate 150 people remotely, especially when conditions weren’t ideal. Some employees lived in small, rented rooms and some had living quarters that were crowded with family members, young and old.

To overcome the strain and stress, we kept leaders and their team members in close communications, each individual was accountable in terms of work and shared how they were coping personally. “Virtual check-ins” were done at the very least once a day and any gaps that arose were quickly addressed.

To ensure managers also had support, accountability partners with other leaders in the company were set up and this web of support provided the encouragement everyone needed.

When there wasn’t an immediate solution, even the ability to share the challenges and to be able to relate to another truly helped every individual to cope better. In the bigger scheme of things, this helped the team stay focused on our business goals.

Organisational agility to address business pain points

It was pertinent that the organisation remained agile. In doing so, company goals were revised in light of the limitations the pandemic presented. Realistic goals were put in place by including the voice of the employees.

A month into the lockdown, we organised a virtual annual conference with all 150 employees. Here the goals were discussed and mapped out.

To ensure the goals were doable remotely, with a relatively young team of digital natives, we rolled out several webinars via Zoom to engage with our audiences and provide timely business solutions to the market. We also organised free “energy clinics” which saw us generating many enquiries for solar solutions.

With businesses cash-strapped, we had to come up with agile solutions for our client.  One such solution was the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) financing model, where consumers pay nothing upfront and buy electricity at a lower rate from investors, were attractive propositions that helped us achieve some of our goals.

The interest for PPA has since increased 500 per cent, as many businesses were keen to reduce energy cost and this proved as a successful direction.

We also accelerated our digitalisation efforts by developing an in-house Energy Performance Management System (EPMS) called Source. In short, it acts like a Fitbit for buildings, helping businesses save energy, turning it into dollars. Some of our success stories include Shell MarkMaju Corporation and Tan Kiat Huat Fishery who managed to save a minimum of 20-25 per cent of their respective energy demand.

The Net Energy Metering (NEM) 2.0 was another attractive scheme that we encouraged businesses to adopt. Through it, adopters saw every KiloWatt of excess solar energy generated in residential, commercial or industrial settings offset from their electricity bills, at a “one-to-one” basis. In other words, MYR100 (US$32) worth of excess in solar energy generated is equivalent to MYR100 (US$32) reduction in monthly TNB bills.

We look forward to the NEM’s next iteration, NEM 3.0. We are confident that, with similarly attractive returns, NEM 3.0 will drive not just the solar industry but also deliver savings for all businesses, while playing a bigger role in the economy and contributing to Malaysia as a whole.

Ultimately, we strive to identify business pain points based on the economic outlook and challenges. To address some concerns business owners have with operational expense (OPEX), we provide an ecosystem which combines hardware and software for them to control their business’ energy costs.

Seize every opportunity

What we have learnt is never to be comfortable in our own skin – but to seize every opportunity to learn – both professionally and personally.

It is still our mission to build a positive environment for talent to grow, innovate and impact the energy revolution. More than anything, the pandemic has reminded us of this goal and kept us rooted in it and kept us rooted to it.

I am inspired by their dedication and believe that there are better days ahead with trust, respect, teamwork and persistence. Swimming in uncharted waters becomes possible when people build a net of resilience and strive together.

Original Sourcee27

Photo Credit: Plus Solar

Disclaimer: The contents of the reposted article have been edited to represent Plus Solar’s brand and services to their truest nature.

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