James Hendon – CUP Fellow Spotlight

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?
I am the Chief Operating Officer for BlocPower, a company that markets, finances, and installs energy efficiency upgrades in houses of worship, nonprofits, and small businesses. I grew up always wanting to help people; I had done so before having served in the military. When I made friends with someone in business school who shared a similar background and passion as me, I made it a point to stay in touch with him. I also stayed in touch with our social entrepreneurship professor, as we met in that particular class. After my friend, Donnel Baird, founded BlocPower, which embraces energy efficiency as a means through which to effectively help both communities and the environment, I went out of my way to become the company’s first official hire.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?
The biggest challenge is maintaining fruitful relationships as our company grows; to have a bond with those we work with, particularly property owners, that transcends any one project. We are not just concerned with the energy efficiency upgrades that the nonprofits, faith centers, small businesses, and other organizations that we work with receive. We care about the overall community impact from our efforts. That said, it is easy to get lost in day to day operations and not step back to observe what we do from thirty thousand feet up. For us to make that observation and further impact things, it is critical that we stay in touch with people long after our work is done.

What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement is graduating from the US Army’s Ranger School, a very challenging leader training program with a high attrition rate. Ranger School took several leadership lessons that I had learned before in a relatively non-stressful environment and emphasized them in a highly physical and visceral way.

What leaders, thinkers, or doers do you admire most?
I admire my father.  When I was growing up, he and I lived together – just the two of us – for a time. I went to live with him because I had been misbehaving as a rising teenager and not doing well in school. Every day, when my father arrived home from work, he always had more work to do. Thus, he made it a point for us to do our respective “homework” assignments together at the dinner table at the same time after we ate. The tenacity and work ethic that he showed – and still shows – are reasons why I am who I am today. I admire him more than anyone in the world for that.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I see myself still with BlocPower expanding energy efficiency opportunities in underserved areas, but on a larger scale.

What is the one thing you’ve learned from the CUP Fellows Program that you would pass along to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact?
Embrace the concept echoed by the words “Why not us?” There is absolutely no reason in the world why you cannot make an impact in some way, shape, or form. As for the level of impact, do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good because doing something is far better than doing nothing. All of us are busy, but the process of aligning your career and life with a sense of benevolent achievement has to begin somewhere. Furthermore, the only thing stopping you from helping to create a better tomorrow is you. A few busy, brave young people stopped a New York City house party to ask themselves “Why not us?” over ten years ago. More importantly, they acted on what they discussed. Had they not done that, then the genesis of what is now CUP would never have been formed.