Kiwi Business Story: Owner Manager Programme – Lightforce

Posted by Ben Whittacker-Cook on May 25, 2022 10:00:00 AM

Luke Nutting is the founder and Managing Director of Lightforce, the successful Auckland-based solar energy company. Luke is an Owner Manager Programme alumni and has also put many staff on The Icehouse Leadership Development Programme. 

This Kiwi Business Story is based on a Podcast from October 2021 and all figures quoted are from that time. You can enjoy the complete Podcast here.

Luke Nutting_Kiwi Business Story

Location: Auckland
Business Type: Energy and Renewables
Founded: 2013
Number of employees:  85 (as at October 2021)
Current Business Situation: 300%-400% revenue growth for 2021 (as at October 2021)
Relationship with The Icehouse: Owner Manager Programme Alumni and Owner Manager Exchange Alumni

Tell us about Lightforce?  

I set up Lightforce in 2013 having started out as an electrician. The business quickly evolved from your average electrical business down the solar path, and we've now moved to a fully end-to-end solar business.

Everything from lead generation, sales, installation, marketing, engineers is under one roof and we’ve grown our nationwide footprint over the last 12 months.

Do you have a growth plan?

For us at this stage, to get to the $10 million revenue mark is really tough. You’re trying to work out, ‘What's the formula?’, ‘Who do we need?’, and trying not to spend any money because cash flow is tight. And then you find the formula, you put more people in, and it grows from there. So I suppose for us, it was getting people to buy into the vision and the “why” we're doing what we're doing.

Once people buy into that, and everyone believes where we're going, and you've got the right culture, it actually becomes a lot easier with scale. So now we believe we've got the formula every time we open a branch. We know what to do, we know we need this many vans, this many people and this is what will happen. Since finishing OMP we’ve had just under 100% revenue growth every year, and this year, we'll probably see 300% to 400% revenue growth.

What did you do with The Icehouse?  

I did Owner Manager Programme 42 in 2017 and several Owner Manger Exchange programmes since then. I’ve also put a couple of people through the Leadership Development Programme.

What were your key takeaways?  

The programme was lifechanging – it gives you the tools and skills but not only that, lifelong friendships that have all come out of The Icehouse. Once you've done a course it leads to The Icehouse cult!

There's always a link back, whether it's a day course that you go on or through sending someone on Knowing Your Numbers. The thing with The Icehouse is that everyone who is on these courses are trying to improve their business. They’re people that you want to hang out with – people who want to grow, people who want to do awesome stuff. You just get connected with some cool people.

How did you weave your learnings into the business?  

The immediate changes were around business and growth plans and setting goals as we’ve seen rapid growth. We had 10 staff when I did OMP and now we have over 80, so we’ve really focused on getting the systems and processes in place which we didn't really have back then.

A big focus of mine right now is wellbeing and resilience, because you can only work so hard for so long and it’s just not sustainable – so that's a big focus right now for myself.

I was the smallest company in my whole OMP group, so for me to be able to sit and listen to stories of the businesses with a couple of 100 staff, and some of them with 100 million dollar plus revenues… there's so much for me to learn.

It was pretty amazing and now I'm close friends with a lot of these people. I can pick up the phone, give them a call and ask them for their recommendations and get some invaluable advice.

The connections piece is huge and a couple of things that have come out from my Icehouse experience. Andy Hamilton, who was CEO at The Icehouse, is actually Chair of our Board and another OMP 42 alumni is on our marketing team. Andy knows a lot of people, and being able to reach out to the people who can connect you with someone that you need, or something that you need, is pretty valuable.

Any advice to owners in business right now or looking to get into business?  

Don't think you can do it all yourself – especially in the early stages. Someone can always do it better than you, so get the right people on the bus; in finance, in marketing, etc. Letting go is a big thing for a founder. A founder wants to hold on to everything – which is good and bad, but it can put a handbrake on growth.

Follow the link for more information about Lightforce and its products and services.

Topics: Owner Manager Programme

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