by Lloyd Lee
In March 2007, Nick Ryza and I were sitting in a pub in Dublin, Ireland talking about what we wanted to do with the next chapter of our professional lives. We were there on a business trip visiting one of our semiconductor customers. Back home our wives were caring for our first born children – both about a year old at the time. We had just the right balance of Guinness and new parent self reflection to have a several hours long conversation about what this career change would look like, why we wanted to do it, and what steps were necessary for it to happen.
Upon returning home, we compiled the notes from our bar napkins into a presentation to pitch the concept to our wives. Sitting in Nick’s living room, we reviewed our presentation with our spouses in hopes of gaining their support of us leaving our combined 25yr semiconductor careers to embark on a new journey together. Their support was quick and unanimous.
In November 2007, NATiVE was born. At that time, the company had two employees, both of which still had their full time jobs as we worked nights and weekends to develop business for our new company. Our first project was to build a net zero energy spec home to allow us to prove our concept and see how the market would respond. Remember that housing crisis of 2008? Yeah, that occurred right in the middle of construction on project numero uno. No one knew at the time how bad or how long that financial crisis would last, but considering we had already committed to a construction loan to build this house and were in the middle of building it, there was no turning back.
Also during the middle of construction of that house, we brought on employee number three: David Dixon. Dave worked with Nick and I at the same semiconductor company and once he learned that we were building a net zero energy home after work and on the weekends, he started volunteering his time to help out. His passion for solar was apparent from the beginning and although Nick and I knew enough to be dangerous about construction, we needed a solar guy to make this work.
Since the large majority of the labor on this first house was performed by the three of us, we were able to price the home to sell at a recession proof number and still walk away with a little change in our pockets. The process of listing that home to sell brought enough attention our way to land us our first custom home client. That’s when we realized that we had inadvertently stumbled upon a business that even in the worst of economic downturns, can attract customers who want to limit their exposure to availability and price fluctuations of basic needs: energy and water.
Reflecting ten years later on how we started and the many changes we’ve made along the way, makes me really appreciate the guys with whom I started this company and who continue to contribute to its daily success. I understand why it’s generally considered a bad idea to go into business with friends and although we have our occasional disagreements, it’s our friendship, trust in each other, and aligned vision that allows us to persevere. Aside from my family, NATiVE is the thing that makes me the proudest to say that I helped create.
I’m proud about the reputation and brand we’ve created which is primarily a result of the team we’ve assembled and the work they do on a daily basis. We have completed some amazing projects over the years. We’ve also completed some projects that initially weren’t so amazing. As I reflect on some of these challenging projects, I think it’s how we responded to the challenges that has helped to define us as a company – as much, if not more than our finest projects. We usually get it right, but when we don’t, we consider the job incomplete until it is right. It costs money to do this, which is why if a company consistently doesn’t do things right, they either quickly go out of business or gain a bad reputation which ultimately results in the same outcome.
We are thankful to be part of the 4% of businesses who have made it to the 10 year mark. We know that consistently doing the right thing is what got us here and is what is going to get us to our next 10 year anniversary. Thank you to all of our customers and team members – past and present, who helped us achieve this milestone. Please join us by raising a pint of Guinness and cheers to another decade of NATiVE!
10 Years 10 Years 10 Years 10 Years 10 Years 10 Years 10 Years 10 Years 10 Years