It's a hazy Tuesday morning here at the Dividend HQ in San Francisco, and today I have the pleasure of interviewing Ivy Gilbert, Owner & CEO of iQ Power, one of the Dividend partners. In this article we get to know the very talented and interesting Ivy Gilbert and gain some great insights into how she's been able to successfully juggle building one of the largest solar companies in Florida with her other passions of writing, life coaching, financial consulting, and of course, spending time with her beautiful family.
Q: Let's dive right in with an easy one. How did you come to run one of the most successful solar operations in Florida?
A: Actually, it's kind of a weird story (she laughs), we were living in Maine at the time, and my son was going into his senior year of high school. He played baseball and wanted to see if he could be competitive with the boys that played year-round. So, I sold my businesses, retired and moved to Florida with family to follow his dream and save me from the cold, which I loved.
As for Solar, it was really an unlikely piece of luck and timing that brought me into the solar world. Through my consulting business I had stumbled into meeting a couple of individuals who were thinking about forming a solar energy company. They knew they needed someone with my skill set and asked if I would come in and set up the operations and help them get the ball rolling. It was an industry that I had very little knowledge of, but I figured that business was business regardless the industry and I could learn a product. Once I got involved I discovered that I could really get excited about the possibilities that solar offered.
Q: That is such a neat story, and Kudos to you for allowing your son to follow his passion! Do you have any advice you can share with the next generation of business women in the renewable energy sector that may be chasing their dreams and raising a family as you did?
A: I've always juggled work and family and tried to find a good balance that was right for both me and my family. I don't think there is a "one shoe fits all" scenario. Each woman is different and has to find her own passions and balance. But if a woman wants both a career and family, why not! Everything is achievable if someone wants something bad enough and will dedicate the time and energy. They just have to learn patience, balance and organization! I'm extremely organized and would say this is probably one of my major attributes. As for the renewable energy sector, there are such great opportunities for anyone… male or female. And if this is an industry that someone is passionate about, they'll figure out how to balance their family commitments with business. If the passion isn't there, it will never happen. But if it is, where there's a will… there's a way. Yet in saying this, I must admit that now my family is grown, and I can just enjoy my grandchildren, I obviously have more time for business pursuits making it a little easier for me at this stage in life.
Q: Great advice, for everyone really. Now, what was it like being a woman in solar in those early days?
A: I have to admit that the industry was very fragmented and sort of felt like the wild-wild west! My background was from highly regulated industries, and after being in this business for even short period of time I realized that if I were going to stay in the business, I wanted to do things in a more professional manner. I became so passionate about the benefits of solar that I eventually acquired 100% of the company. My goal was to create a true customer-centered business, but once I took over I definitely ruffled some feathers. I had some competitive business owners' call and scream at me and threaten me because they were losing business to me. It wasn't a pleasant time and sometimes I wondered what I had gotten myself into, but I'm not one to give up easily. I just focused on my business and not theirs and kept moving the company in the direction I felt was best.
Ivy Gilbert, Owner & CEO iQ Power
Q: That sounds pretty wild indeed. Can you tell us about some of the skills that have helped you start, grow and manage your solar business ?
A: I think the major contributing factor that has allowed for me to grow and manage this business is simply that I view it from an organizational business perspective. I would say a majority of the professionals who get involved in solar do so because it's their trade. They may be an electrician, plumber or builder, so they evolve into solar from the technical/trade side. I've grown the business from a business perspective putting into practice operating procedures that would work within any industry. I think I've just approached it from a different direction than most in the industry.
Q: What type of support network did you have when getting started? Any mentors?
A: I believe everyone should have a mentor or two that makes you stretch and grow and can look at things in way with an objectivity that you as an owner may sometimes be missing. Because of this, I've always had over many years a small support network that I could run ideas by or discuss obstacles. Sometimes it's easier to see a solution when you're not immersed in it. You know the saying, "No one achieves success alone," is very true. Without my family, friends and employees, iQ Power wouldn't be the company it is today. It's taken a village.
Q: On top of running a solar company, you are a published author (and certified financial consultant). Can you tell us a little about that?
A: One thing about me is that I like to keep busy, and since I'm not one to watch TV or just pass time, I need to find other things to fulfill me. So, in addition to building iQ Power and spending time with my family and grandchildren, I try and play tennis a few days a week and I love to write. I think I'm very balanced – left brain, right brain, which as a result of that I need to stimulate both sides of my brain. Numbers and financial side of business may encourage one side, but I need that creative fix as well.
I wrote my first book in the early 90s. As a result, I ended up ghost-writing about 20 more books for doctors, psychologists and business owners. Eventually, I decided to only write my own books. Every book I had ever written was non-fiction, so for me, that was an easy way to write. But in 2010 I wanted to challenge myself and give fiction a try. Since then I've written 3 fiction books – one that became an Amazon best-seller. Currently, however, I'm back to non-fiction and am working on a book that will be more of a "how to achieve a happy and successful life" book. (No working title at the moment) Once this is done then I hope to use it as a spring-board for developing programs to help women in their business and personal development.
Everything I do has an underlying effect of helping people. With solar it's on a much larger scale about improving lifestyle, being greener and saving the earth. In writing I'm trying to help the end user (reader) in a more intimate setting, and specifically helping women to develop better balance in their lives.
Q: Amazing! What is one piece of advice you'd like to give to the next generation?
A: If you look at statistics, the average American spends 2-5 hours a day watching TV, 6 hours a week on video games and an average of 1 out of every 5 minutes on social media. So, my one piece of advice to the next generation would be to choose wisely how you spend your time. Time goes by very quickly, so spend it on things that really matter: family, education, career or personal goals for example. Goals are accomplished by putting the necessary time into them; and the more time and energy spent, the quicker they are achieved.
Q: Alright last question, would you share three of your "Bucket List" goals with the readers?
A: Continue to build iQ Power and be a good role model for my children and grandchildren. I'd like to continue to use my experience and talents to help other women reach their true potential. I have also been blessed to have seen much of the world, but there are two places I haven't been that I definitely have on my travel calendar: Peru and Greece. I'll knock one of these off this summer!
To learn more about iQ Power, visit their website at iQpowersolar.com.
To learn more about Ivy's books, visit her website at IvyGilbert.com.