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Values are something I think about a lot. My own values brought me to Arcadia, where I work as the Chief Operating Officer. And the company’s values help guide each and every decision I make for the business. As a mission-driven organization that’s undergone tremendous growth, I know that if we don’t lead with our core beliefs, we risk losing ourselves as we solve harder problems, create new businesses, and integrate new team members.

There’s beauty in the universality of the energy experience, because it’s something we have to all solve in tandem.

When I started working at Arcadia, I was employee number five. Inspired by the birth of my daughter, I’d left my comfy job as a commercial litigator and was searching for work with more purpose and impact. Arcadia was a small, scrappy startup paving its own path in a highly regulated industry, and it offered an opportunity to use my philosophy and law degrees in a new and more creative way. I emailed Kiran Bhatraju, Arcadia’s CEO, and explained that I wanted to wake up at 4 a.m. and work on solving the world’s biggest problems. My words must have resonated, because I’ve been doing just that ever since.

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Things have certainly changed at Arcadia since I started. My first desk was a table balanced on three legs and a pile of books. Back then, we had 3,000 members, and my law school friends were often guinea pigs for our new products. Today, we have more than 400,000 members, 130 employees, and a booming business. When I think about how the company has progressed, I imagine the ladder from “Jack and the Beanstalk,” where the lower rungs of yesterday’s progress melt away with each step as we climb higher and higher to the next problem to tackle. At Arcadia, we continually strive to improve and progress to the next step, because there’s no going back.

That’s where those values I mentioned come in. Since those early days, we’ve grown into a world-class business that’s disrupting a 200-year-old, archaic industry. To ensure that we remain agile and keep our culture, the company’s principles are my constant guide. These are the things that haven’t changed as everything else around us has. Here’s a look at those five values, and examples of how we live them:

Build for good

Arcadia is a mission-driven company. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t talk about clean energy. It’s core to who we are, and everyone on our team is here because they believe we need to transition from fossil fuels into a sustainable energy system. Each and every person we’ve hired is animated by fixing this problem and building for good, and we hold ourselves accountable for living that value each day in our work.

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Build for all

If we’re going to reach a 100% renewable energy future, we need to include everyone. Historically, however, solar power has been limited to a very narrow slice of Americans — homeowners with the right roof, the right credit score, and the right budget — and has come with 20-year contracts and expensive cancellation fees. With Arcadia’s community solar, that’s changing. People in a growing number of states can join local solar projects to take advantage of renewable energy without installing their own solar panels. When we got into community solar about a year ago, we decided to make it even more accessible: with our community solar option, there’s no credit check, no cancellation fee, and no long-term contract. We believe every consumer should be able to sign up for clean energy.

Build with urgency

All startups want to build with urgency, because they want to grow. We feel even more urgency because the climate crisis needed to be solved yesterday. To make the biggest impact, we need to activate our members and stoke demand. One of the best recent examples of this occurred in Maryland, where a community solar law passed with a cap on participation. Regulators didn’t think consumers would want community solar, but we believed they would. In just six months, we proved it. We built a big enough business that the regulators doubled the size of the cap, and they did it because of us.

Our members are as diverse as this country… Our goal is to find the motivator for everyone so that we can build a future of clean energy together.

Build for simplicity

The power industry is centuries old, and its history is filled with complexities and failures. Power customers have been collectively conditioned to believe that they have no choice when it comes to their energy, so they spend very little time thinking about this thing that is going to potentially destroy our planet. Since Arcadia began, we’ve been working on giving this dinosaur of an industry a reboot by creating a simple, inviting product that puts consumers in charge of their power choices, while helping them save money — and the planet — at the same time.

Build together

In the United States, 120 million residential power customers pay a power bill every month. I joke that the certainties in life aren’t just death and taxes; they’re death, taxes, and utility bills. But there’s beauty in the universality of the energy experience, because it’s something we have to all solve in tandem. Our members are as diverse as this country. Each one signs up with Arcadia for different reasons, which range from saving the planet to saving money. Our goal is to find the motivator for everyone so that we can build a future of clean energy together.

Looking back on the last four years, I’m immensely proud of the fact that I took a risk to leave a career not suited for me and find purpose here at Arcadia. My daughters — I have two now, ages two and six — are too young to understand my work. But I’m excited for the day when I can tell them that they inspired me to take that leap. Now, I’m living my values, both at home and at work, and every day, I try and inspire others to join me in taking action so we can change the world for the better, together.

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Kate Henningsen

Kate Henningsen is the Chief Operating Officer at Arcadia.

Washington, DC