FORTUNE Small Business:

How can I cash in on clean energy?

FSB offers advice to a startup that plans to sell customers products for solar and wind power.

By Elaine Pofeldt, FSB senior editor

(FSB Magazine) -- Dear FSB: I intend to get into renewable energy business, setting up wind generation and solar generation units. I need help to turn my idea into a business. Can you help? --Parag Patil De Pere, Wisc.

Dear Parag: Setting a clear mission for your business is essential at this early stage of your business, says Verne Harnish, CEO of Gazelles (, a consulting firm for fast growth firms in Ashburn, Va. "You need to pick a North Star and stay focused on it," he advises.

Get small-business intelligence from the experts. Here's a chance for YOU to ask your pressing small-business questions, and FSB editors will help you get answers from the appropriate experts.
Your name:
* Your e-mail address:
* Your city:
* Your state:
* Your daytime phone #:
* Your questions:

Harnish recommends that you set a 10-year-goal, to avoid wasting your energy on projects that won't help your business grow. "It will be a tough road and without a goal, you'll be tempted to stop many, many times," he says. For help in setting priorities, Harnish recommends going to and using some of his Big Hairy Audacious Goals tools.

You may also want to look for a partner, says Harnish. He cites MIT professor Edward Roberts's research about high-tech entrepreneurs, which found that startups with more than one partner had more success than those run by a single owner. Why? The teams could split the workload. And at least one entrepreneur could keep a day job to keep the money flowing while the other worked full-time to launch the business.

Although your product may not be ready yet, it is also a good idea to look for a customer or two, Harnish advises. "The key is generating any kind of revenue, even if it's a consulting project for someone studying the feasibility of setting up wind-generation units," he says. That cash flow will enable you to stay afloat until the business becomes profitable.

Need more ideas? Check out Harnish's article, "Finding Money You Didn't Know You Had." When it comes to getting a startup off the ground, having decent cash reserves can go a long way.

Tell us what you think. Does your business use renewable energy? Let us know.


How can I sell my business? Top of page

To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.