Part two: Solar design strategies that can help you compete

In part one, we looked at reasons why you should consider diversifying your design strategy and how the selection of proposal and/or design tools can help. In part two, we will look at other strategies for controlling costs in your design program.

Understand and document design requirements
Consider developing your own database of design requirements. Your company should understand and make use of any special design or construction requirements as far upstream in the process as possible. Otherwise, promises made during sales may need to be rolled back during construction planning, which can result in rework and dissatisfied customers.

If your company covers a small territory, develop relationships with the building department staff in all jurisdictions where you do business. To see where you do most of your business, create a Pareto chart of authorities having jurisdiction, AHJs, in your service territory by volume of sales. Focus on optimizing operations in those areas first. Then evaluate the most challenging jurisdictions. Are they worth doing business in based on the amount of special attention required?

Consider outsource options
Small companies can struggle with carrying the costs of a fully staffed design department when sales volume might not regularly support it. Business owners have several options to flex their staffing pool, from one-person home office designers to solar-specialized design outsourcing firms like GreenLancer. You could choose one or a mix of these options depending on the size of your business.

Design a process that integrates outsourcing into your operations in the most streamlined way, including implementing the right oversight, hand-offs and quality control checks to ensure value is not eroding as projects move through the design process. To evaluate outsource options, determine if the costs needed to manage and ensure quality control for the outside resource results in costs saved. You may have to look far downstream in your operations to installation or long-term support for indications of this.

Build a right-sized strategy
From simplifying and automating to blending the right mix of in-house and outsourced staff, you can build a strategy that is right for your business model and your growth needs. Only by analyzing your current operations and knowing your future goals will you understand what design strategy will fit your needs. Spend the time investing in this analysis yourself or with employees or contractors you trust.