Alan Peltier on Building Community Through Trusted Connections
CEO & Founder
Coffee Lunch Coffee
Alan Peltier, CEO of HRE Wheels, shares how building a culture of trust during his tenure inspired him to build meaningful relationships with nonprofit organizations throughout the San Diego area.
“I come in to make sure (new connections) know that we can be trusted. I'm not there to pitch HRE to anybody, but I'm there to make sure that what we say we're going to do is going to happen.”
Alana Muller 00:09
Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they found success and cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host Alanna Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning in to another episode.
Alana Muller 00:41
Hello! Welcome to another episode of Enterprise.ing podcast. So great to have you here today. I'm so pleased to welcome my guest. Alan Peltier is CEO of HRE Wheels, which designs engineers and manufactures wheels for racing, performance, luxury cars and SUVs, which are sold through select high-end car dealerships, specialty retailers and performance companies worldwide. Alan, welcome to Enterprise.ing podcast.
Alan Peltier 01:07
Thank you for having me. It's exciting.
Alana Muller 01:09
I'm so glad you're here. I want to dive right in. And so I take it you're a car guy, huh?
Alan Peltier 01:15
Yeah, I'm a car guy. Since I was a little kid. There's a picture of me -- I'm like five and I'm in my big plastic toy car. I'm an engineer, so when I was a kid, Hot Wheels and Legos were kind of my two, go-to toys and then Star Wars came out. So Star Wars shaped my life, you know. But I like all things that move cars, planes, motorcycles, all of it.
Alana Muller 01:36
I want to hear more about this. I want you to tell our listeners more about HRE Wheels and what led you to join the company, where you actually worked your way through the organization. I know you started in design, then engineering, then production and eventually executive management. So, as a car guy, I bet this was like the dream come true, huh?
Alan Peltier 01:52
Kinda, yeah. I was up in LA and I was working for Northrop Grumman. I was in aerospace. It was super cool, doing really high tech stuff, and neat work. But, I really wanted to work for a smaller company where I could help shape the culture. And HRE - I was seeing them in the Fortune magazine, I saw their ads, I was like, "I'm gonna reach out to them see if they need an engineer." And I did. And this is back way back in 1999. And it turned out that they did. And the CEO contacted me right away. And a couple of weeks later, I had a new job. And it was a big change. I went from working, you know, normal eight hour day to 14, 16 hour days and working six days a week and very stressful. There's only 14 of us back then. So it was pretty crazy. But it's been wonderful. And I did get to help shape that culture and and now as CEO - yeah, obviously, that's my main responsibility. And so I'll tell you, it was pretty hard for ten years - pretty rough.
Alana Muller 02:53
Well, I mean, what's so amazing is that you had kind of the audacity to place that call or to reach out to the company. What made you do it? Is it just that you were so inspired or interested in what they were offering? What led you to actually place that call?
Alan Peltier 03:09
Their marketing actually was pretty impressive for a small company back then. I knew they were tiny, but they looked like they had potential. And, it looked like a company that was probably the size where I could come and actually make a difference.
Alan Peltier 03:20
I was a great employee at Northrop Grumman, but I was one of 10s of 1,000s of employees, and I just wasn't making a difference. And I wanted to really be at a place where I could make an impact. And it turned out that they needed me more than I realized. But at least back then they probably don't need me much anymore, but they needed me a lot back then.
Alana Muller 03:43
I love that. I just think it's so cool. I mean, so frequently we hear about people, you know, they see perhaps a job posting, they're like, "oh my gosh, this job posting it, this was designed for me," or "gosh, I would love to work for this company." And you know, despite kind of this challenge that we're facing in the market right now, where we don't have enough of a workforce to fill the needs, often the jobs that people want specifically are not available. So, the fact that you're actually made that call is just so cool.
Alana Muller 04:11
And actually I want to focus for a minute on your role as CEO. One of the things that you shared with me that you've been particularly focused on is managing your internal network and really focusing on team and culture, which you've already mentioned here today. Talk a little bit about how you actively maintain your relationships with HRE Wheels associates, and how that shapes your daily interactions.
Alan Peltier 04:33
I think the most important thing for me is not to be a manager. It's not to be the boss to tell people what to do. I'm here, and to give you some sense, our culture is based on trust. And that means you obviously have to we have to trust your integrity and your intentions and all of that. That one was the easy one. The other one is we need to trust that people are going to execute and get the job done. And for me, I think transitioning from being a manager to being a leader, you have to realize that people have to want to follow you. And that means they have to really trust me. I'm just not out there barking orders at people, I don't do that anymore. And my job is to inspire them. And to make sure that if they're motivated to bring it, and they walked through that front door, that we don't kill that motivation while they're here. You know, you spent so much time at work and I want it to be someplace they love. And so the easiest thing is for to them to come in and have to work in a culture that they don't like, and that will kill your morale. And so if they walk out the door, like, "oh, man, I really don't want to come back," while I'm failing at my job.
Alan Peltier 05:41
So, my main responsibility is to create a culture where they come in wanting to work hard, that they walk out that door, wanting to come back tomorrow again, and work hard. And the easiest way to do this is make sure they're working with wonderful people. And so, you're talking about hiring people and how it's hard to find - it's really hard for us because we're really picky. You have to really fit into that culture. And my main responsibility is reinforcing that culture. So, and that's not always being the bad guy. Sometimes it's, you know, often, they know, they can believe in me, they also forgive me. And that's the neat thing about trust, when you have a culture based on trust is we all make mistakes. But, when we make mistakes, and we trust each other, we know the intentions were true. And so we forgive each other. And that goes a long, long way. And that's that honesty and integrity in everything. It makes all the difference.
Alana Muller 06:33
Well, I mean, they give you grace, which we don't hear a lot about that anymore, right?
Alan Peltier 06:38
My team gives me a lot of grace. I wish I could say I don't make mistakes. And you know, when I make mistakes, they're expensive mistakes. So they, not only do they forgive me, they don't hesitate to call me out. So, my management team, they trust me, they know that they can blatantly, openly disagree with me on stuff, because if they believe in it, they know they're not gonna get punished for that or anything like that. This is not about me. This is about us making the best company we can. And if it was all about me, we would have popped out a long time ago.
Alana Muller 07:10
Yeah, I totally get that. One of the things that you said is, you were talking about fit, like kind of cultural fit. And so, it strikes me you're not just looking for engineers, this is not just about functional expertise. Which I suspect there is some degree of functional expertise that's required, you know, the educational background, some sort of experience set. But, that there's more of a there's a character play here. It's about character, it's about fitting in, it's about being part of the team. And that seems like a more difficult thing to interview for, or even to recruit for, right?
Alan Peltier 07:43
100%. Because you can look at a resume and you can see somebody's skill set, right? And you have a pretty good sense, okay, they're going to bring the skills, but are they really going to fit into that culture? And we're very open and honest with them when during the interview, like, "I'm sorry, but if you don't fit in, you're not going to be here."
Alan Peltier 07:57
And oftentimes, we actually struggle with engineers in particular, and in senior machinists, because they have a lot of skills. They come in with a lot of knowledge, and they're smart people. And they're used to having this, "Hey, I have this on my resume, you need to respect me." And it's like, there's a difference between treating someone with respect and respecting them. We don't know them yet. And so, respect is earned and that's earned through once we trust them, we obviously respect them. And so, they've got to get that part first. And sometimes those guys that are more technical that have those more technical skills aren't used to that and they often don't stay. So, that's really difficult for us. But, the people that do, stay here forever. When you fit, you love it.
Alana Muller 08:39
You said when you joined there were about 14 employees. How many employees do you have now?
Alan Peltier 08:44
Alana Muller 08:44
Wow. So. So there's been an increase. There's been an increase.
Alan Peltier 08:48
Yeah, yeah, for sure. And our revenues increased about 20 times. So it's difficult. We're still small company, but it's definitely much more professional and bigger than it was and our stature in the industry is obviously much has changed.
Alana Muller 09:02
Right? I mean, so 20 times revenue, three times employee base.
Alan Peltier 09:06
Alana Muller 09:07
I suspect that that's also come with more machining or technology, right?
Alan Peltier 09:12
We have a lot of machines. There's no doubt. And unfortunately, our wheels are large, so when we buy a new machine, it's a big machine. And so when we make an investment in it, we just made one and it was it's about a million dollar investment. So it's, we wished we made small parts because we could make a lot of those, you know? But we make these really big parts. It's really hard. It's really expensive.
Alana Muller 09:31
Smaller facilities, right?
Alan Peltier 09:33
Alana Muller 09:35
So, I wanna, I want to talk more about machines. But I don't want to talk specifically about HRE. I want to, I want to ask about your hobbies.
Alan Peltier 09:41
Alana Muller 09:42
So, I heard you have a variety of personal interests that run the gamut from motorcycles to martial arts to airplanes and flying, and that not only do you have a pilot's license, but that you're actually building your own airplane, which I find slightly terrifying, but I want to know more.
Alan Peltier 10:01
Yeah. So you know, it was COVID, right?
Alana Muller 10:04
Alan Peltier 10:04
And we're all sitting around, what should we do? A lot of people are being very productive learning new languages and or reading, reading and reading and reading books. And I was working, actually. But I still was like, "hey, you know, what could I do?" And I started watching these videos, these people building airplanes. And I was like, "huh, I want to do that. I want to build an airplane."
Alana Muller 10:28
So you're saying there's a YouTube video for that, too?
Alan Peltier 10:30
Oh yeah, there's tons. There's tons.
Alan Peltier 10:32
And the problem is, I'll get to that in a second, you got to be a little careful, because you can't follow everything they do. Because I watched a lot people like, "no, no, no, don't do that. Don't do that." You know, I'm an engineer. And people aren't necessarily engineers that are building airplanes. And so I see stuff all the time on YouTube, like, "wow, not doing that."
Alana Muller 10:48
So, I take it this is not like you don't go buy like super glue and plastic.
Alan Peltier 10:52
No, no, for sure.
Alan Peltier 10:54
So the plane I'm building is all riveted together. So it's aluminum, and everything's riveted. But I was sitting there thinking, "oh, man, I really want to build an airplane. Well, I should probably learn how to fly first, right?"
Alan Peltier 11:07
So I just recently got my pilot's license, like back in May. And so that took about a year. And I ordered the plane though, before that. And so the kit took about a year to come in. And it just came in in August. I ordered it last August, the backlog, everybody with COVID...
Alana Muller 11:24
Alan Peltier 11:25
...wanted to build a plane. Everybody wanted to build an airplane. It wasn't a unique idea.
Alana Muller 11:31
Yeah. Apparently, somebody knew this.
Alan Peltier 11:33
Yeah, I was one of many in line. So it was not this novel idea in any way, shape or form.
Alana Muller 11:39
I'm clearly in the wrong line of business because that's amazing. Okay, well, so I want to get to the relationship part of that. Clearly with the things that you're involved with - so airplanes, but also motorcycles, martial arts - I know that there are communities that are of enthusiats for each of these areas. And so, do you find that those communities play into your overall relationship base, and if so, how?
Alan Peltier 12:04
For sure. And I think, well, everything, even even back to HRE, I mean, I think, relationships outside, in the areas that we're trying to do, are always going to help lift us up.
Alan Peltier 12:15
HRE's not a very big company. So, we rely on relationships outside this building immensely. Our supplier base, our marketing partners, we have some very multinational corporate big corporations that are our marketing partners, and we rely on them for a lot of assistance.
Alan Peltier 12:30
In my own personal life, it's the same thing, right? There's flying communities, I belong to a flying club. And so building those relationships up is really important. And I'll be honest, I'm not the best networker, like I think our marketing team is wonderful at that, I'm when it comes to HRE, I'm definitely in the background. I come in, to make sure those relationships know that we can be trusted. So I'm not there trying to pitch HRE to anybody. But I'm there, making sure that what we say we're going to do is going to happen, that we're going to back that up, right? So they give them confidence that they can trust us. And that happens with suppliers, that happens with marketing partners, and so on and on.
Alan Peltier 13:07
And in my personal relationships, it's very similar. I think, I think a lot of people approach relationships and networking and, and other things a little bit too transactionally.
Alana Muller 13:19
Alan Peltier 13:20
And I just don't ever approach relationships like that, or partnerships, right? I mean, there's some people you have a transactional relationship with. But if I'm really trying to create a network of partners or something, then I'm not looking at it as a transactional relationship. I'm really looking, how can I support them? And if we're looking at how I can support someone else, then I know, when I actually do need help or assistance or something, then I'll have earned that trust, and I'll be able to rely on them when we need their assistance. And so we don't look at it like, what are we going to get from this? It's like, what can we give to them?
Alan Peltier 13:56
Actually, we just started partnering with the North County Food Bank, San Diego Food Bank.
Alana Muller 14:01
Alan Peltier 14:01
Yeah, it was COVID. And I was like, we're doing well. A lot of people aren't, what could we do? And I looked into food insecurity. And I'm like, wow, food insecurity is huge. And it's ridiculous that this is something that is in the United States and so it frustrated us. So we started supporting them on a monthly basis. But then we started, we have a big open house where like 5,000 people come and we raised $15,000 for them, and we've done some other things. And, it's a way that we're starting to get involved with the local San Diego community. And that's unusual for us. We're so focused on what we're doing. We're looking at how do we support them. We're also doing that now with the San Diego Auto Museum, down at Balboa Park.
Alana Muller 14:41
Alan Peltier 14:41
They're trying to expand and they're trying to do some stuff, and we're trying to just bring some visibility in our own, our network of friends and partners, give them visibility to try and help support them because we'd love to have a really wonderful auto museum in San Diego. And we don't quite have that.
Alan Peltier 14:57
And so things like that we're starting to branch out - I don't know if I'm getting old or, but I'm like, we need to be responsible citizens in our community.
Alana Muller 15:04
Alan Peltier 15:05
And that means we have to get out there and network and do that. And again, a lot of people are like, Oh, well, you'll get this marketing, you'll get this. I'm like, honestly, our customers don't. That's not really - they don't care. I hate to say it. For us, it's now how do we just become a good citizen and show that we're giving back.
Alana Muller 15:21
So Alan, I love the way that you and that HRE has gotten involved in the community. If you were talking to somebody who wanted to grow or cultivate their own professional network, what advice would you share?
Alan Peltier 15:33
I think I would go back to, you know, what I was saying a little bit before is, you definitely don't want to you don't want it to be transactional. I don't think about it from the perspective of hey, what am I going to get out of this? I think if you're looking at whether it's a personal relationship, or something where you're trying to do the community, like us trying to support the food bank, or trying to support the San Diego Auto Museum, it's what can we do for them? How can we help them? And that's kind of how we approach our, not just our relationships with those charities, but also relationships with our marketing partners and others, like, how do we give back more than we're getting? And in the end, I think we all get back more. And so it's not about what I'm getting versus what they're getting, it's how do we lift each other up?
Alana Muller 16:13
You're like really talking about expanding the pie. I mean...
Alan Peltier 16:15
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Alana Muller 16:16
You're making sure there's more for everybody. Right?
Alan Peltier 16:18
Exactly, exactly. It's a win, win, and make it a win win. And like I said, I've just been around a lot of people that think of things transactionally. I just don't think people should do that. I think you should just really try to say, "Hey, how can I help others?" And if you're looking at it that way, then the help will come back when you need it.
Alana Muller 16:37
I totally agree with that. It's just not as satisfying when it's just a transaction. Right?
Alan Peltier 16:41
Alana Muller 16:43
So, based on that, what's an interaction that you've had, what's a relationship in your life that resulted in a breakthrough for you either personally, or professionally?
Alan Peltier 16:50
This one was one where I think I just got some advice. I'll be honest, it was a marketing partner. And I was, it was years ago, but I was in the middle of maximum stress here. And there was a lot of turmoil, there was a lot of politics - there's no politics here anymore. I mean, it's just, we just don't have that. But back then, the culture was different. I wasn't the CEO. And, and things were much more challenging. And I was really struggling, and trying to please people that trusted me, and also please others, the powers that be.
Alan Peltier 17:24
And this person pulled me aside said, "Alan, you know what to do. You know what the right thing to do is. Just be brave. Just be brave and do it." And I was like, "Oh, my gosh, I've been a coward. You're right. I've been trying to please everybody, I can't do that." And so I stopped. And I'm like, I'm gonna do what I think is the right thing to do. And those people that didn't believe in me, you know, the powers that be that I was so worried about trying to [crosstalk] - they didn't appreciate it at first, because wasn't going along with what they wanted to do. But today, those people definitely trust me. They know I'm genuine. They know what I was doing was for the right reasons. It wasn't for myself or anything else. And they were able to see that I had everyone's best interests at heart.
Alan Peltier 18:18
And so when you're in a situation like that, and you don't know what to do, do the right thing. Always do the right thing. Don't do the easy thing. Don't do the thing people are telling you to do. Don't worry about your reputation. It's not about what others think of you. It's who you are, so you have to do the right thing. And sometimes that takes being brave, because it's scary.
Alana Muller 18:41
And then the question becomes, where does the courage come from? So bravo to your marketing partner. Where did you find your courage? How did you do that?
Alan Peltier 18:49
Well, I grew up in Las Vegas and you had to - in the 80s.
Alana Muller 18:55
I got it.
Alan Peltier 18:55
You had to be tough. You had to be tough.
Alana Muller 19:01
A little experience doesn't hurt, right?
Alan Peltier 19:03
Yeah, for sure. For sure. But I mean, I think that's one thing I teach my kids like, look, bravery comes with fear. If you're just blindly doing it, that's not bravery. That's just foolishness, right? You have to be afraid in order to be brave. You have to do something that you're afraid to do. And that's tough. And I'm not like super brave all the time. That's not...
Alana Muller 19:23
Yeah. We don't need to be right? But, in the moments that count, it counts. That's...
Alan Peltier 19:27
That's exactly right. That's exactly...when other people are counting on you, that's when you need to.
Alana Muller 19:31
Yeah, I love that. So, I have a couple of fun questions to ask you here as we beging to wind up. If you could meet anyone, living, not living, fictional, nonfictional, who would it be and why?
Alan Peltier 19:43
Yeah, at the risk of, you know, picking a dead white guy. One of my longtime heroes has always been Charles Darwin, and I have a picture...
Alana Muller 19:56
Oh, that's great.
Alan Peltier 19:56
...of him in my office. I've always said if I wasn't an engineer, I would have been an evolutionary biologist. And I love studying that. And the more you the more you know about evolution and really understand it, the more like nature, it's fascinating. It's beautiful. You see why things are the way they are. And it just it like, opens your eyes to the world and that fascination I just love. And so, if I were able to just sit with him today with all the technology and all the insight we have, and just have a conversation about what he thought and how he has got so much of it right and over 100 years ago, and to see how much it's shaping our world today. That would be awesome.
Alana Muller 20:36
Okay, that's a super, super fun answer. I hope that you have a supply of finches at home that you're watching.
Alan Peltier 20:42
We do, actually that was one thing we have with COVID. We're all turned into bird people in my house. [crosstalk] Totally a ton of finches out back.
Alana Muller 20:52
Perfect, feed some of them. Don't feed some of them. See what happens. As if you're having conversation with Charles himself. I love that answer, I love it. One more - what's currently on your nightstand?
Alan Peltier 21:03
Oh, there's a lot of really boring books about flying. But, there is one book that I read recently. And it's not a new book, but it's called "Grit" from Angela Duckworth. And it really resonated with me that whole concept of how talent plus effort equals skill and in skill plus effort equals accomplishment. I mean, that's something I'm really trying to do in my own life as well as convey to my children and, and also the team. I actually bought a whole bunch of copies and brought them to the office.
Alana Muller 21:35
You know what, if you're gonna have a book, that's a good, that's a really good choice. I think she was a MacArthur Genius. And I agree with you. I think that is, that's a great book, really, for anybody. And it doesn't just have to be about business. I mean, I think it's kind of back to what we were talking about. It's about life. It's about bravery. So, I think that's really cool. Really cool.
Alana Muller 21:53
Well, this has been a blast. I so enjoyed talking with you. Please be careful in that airplane.
Alan Peltier 22:00
Alana Muller 22:00
If our listeners want to learn more about you and HRE Wheels, where should they go?
Alan Peltier 22:04
Well, we're all over social media. I think we have over 800,000 followers on both Instagram and Facebook and obviously our website, HREwheels.com. It's a great place to start.
Alana Muller 22:14
Well, Alan Peltier, thank you so much for being on Enterprise.ing podcast. Great to have you.
Alan Peltier 22:19
Well, thank you for having me.
Alana Muller 22:22
Thanks for joining us this week on Enterprise.ing. Be sure to visit our website enterprisebank.com/podcast to subscribe so you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or telling a friend about us. Enterprise.ing, powering business leaders one conversation at a time.
Alana Muller 22:46
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