We had a chance to sit down with John Peltier, CEO of Peltier Brothers Construction, to talk about the heavy construction industry and the unique challenges of running a multi-generational family business.
Please excuse any typos, this is a hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Hey guys welcome to Texas Business Radio. We have a great show for you today. We’re talking about family businesses. Family businesses are something that a lot of people don’t get right. And it’s something that’s complex to ensure that… to allow business to transition generation to generation is not an easy thing to do.
Jay Curry: Very difficult.
Matt Register: So we have a studio full of folks who have figured out how to navigate that and do it quite effectively. I’m your host Matt Register here is always with Jay Curry. Jay what’s going on?
Jay Curry: These are great stories, aren’t they Matt? I mean family businesses are fundamental to the American business and it is very difficult to go from one generation to the next generation. And today’s show is all about that and there’s a lot to be learned.
Matt Register: There is a lot to be learned. Go ahead and get your calls in guys 844-814-8144 is our 24 hour call in line. Get your calls in, then we’ll get the experts in here get them answered. Or go to the Web site Texasbusinessradio.com see everything in high definition. Get your questions in that way. Lot of ways to get in touch with us. We’re gonna jump right into it. John Peltier is the founder of Peltier Brothers Construction. John welcome to the show.
John Peltier: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
Matt Register: So tell us a little bit about Peltier Brothers Construction. What do you do and how do you do it to?
John Peltier: We are a 38 year old construction company and we do primarily municipal construction and our specialty is caisson construction. Where you build a structure above grade and you sink it to a given elevation. And the reason that you do that is A, it’s cheaper and B, it’s safer.
Matt Register: Gotcha. So this is big heavy stuff. This is not working with two by fours, this is big heavy concrete construction. You got a lot of family members in your business.
John Peltier: Correct. And we’re very proud and happy about that fact. I started the business without any brothers in it, with the knowledge that one of my brothers wanted to be in it. And over the years we’ve had, there have been five of us brothers together in the business and one of them has retired and I’m on the way out as far as retirement goes.
Matt Register: But the good news is you’ve got an entire other generation of Peltier’s coming up right behind you. Right? And that’s always challenging with out family. Right? To be able to make that generational transition. Right?
John Peltier: Oh it is. But these guys love the business. They love each other and they love working together and they do a great job. It’s just astounded me to see how they could take the baton. They asked me very few structural questions now about jobs. I mean it’s about insurance, or loans or finances. That I get questions now because they know how to do the work.
Matt Register: Well they’ve know the business, they put the time in. They’ve been there a long time and are ready to take the reins. Talk to me a little bit about the decisions on when do you make the transition? How do you make that transition? Because you have a lot of relatives that are not in the business and you have some that are in the business. Right?
John Peltier: That is correct. I have two sons and neither one of them elected to go into this business. I was in business with another son but it got bought out by a bigger business. And then they ended up getting it back. I decided in the end not to do it because I was getting out of the business. But we select, well they select us to start with. They have to want to be in the business. They have to want the business to survive and they have to hold the business above themselves.
Matt Register: Sure.
John Peltier: They have to put the business first before their own personal gains and stuff because that’s the only way it will work because the business if it’s not profitable… You know, I tell people all the time work is a four letter word. Profit is not.
Jay Curry: So you haven’t you have four nephews that are in the business now. How’s that split up? Is one a CIO and the other ones a CEO and another one’s taken care of the operations? How are you sharing?
John Peltier: The way we generally put this out. Is partner, they are partners. Every one of them is a partner. Now they do have specific duties. Will has been working the longest there and he’s really an organizational guy. He also is a project manager and our chief estimator. And Jeremy is a project manager, estimator but he over the last five or six years has taken over the financial aspects.
Jay Curry: Okay.
John Peltier: Jeff is the general superintendent of the field. He has been out there with other companies and in our company and doing this.
Jay Curry: Like to be out there on the job.
John Peltier: But really that job requires a lot of office time. And Jacob is our newest member is a project manager and he is learning from the best. And all these guys are totally in on doing business.
Matt Register: Now, if you could talk to a family getting ready to go through this what is the one piece of advice you can give them? That you know, nobody bats a thousand in the majors as they say, right? So there were mistakes you guys made. There were lessons you guys learned. What’s the biggest lesson you could pass on to another family that’s attempting to do this?
John Peltier: Well the biggest thing is because I’ve seen it happen so much is, don’t do it if people aren’t all in. If you’re not all in, if you don’t really love this business. If you want to go in and just have a job, you’re not a candidate.
Matt Register: That’s it. Go elsewhere.
John Peltier: Yeah, go somewhere else. Because you won’t survive. You’ve got to love the business, you’ve got to try to build things the best way and you have to… You have to go to school every day on the business because.
Jay Curry: There is no penalty or anything. I mean really your sons are not in business just because they chose not to be in the business. I mean that’s OK. That’s not. There’s no shame or anything. Go do what you love.
John Peltier: That’s exactly right and they are happy.
Jay Curry: And you’re happy.
John Peltier: And I’m happy, they’re are happy. And we have we have a great, great family.
Matt Register: We are talking to John Peltier’s the founder of Peltier brothers Construction Company in Houston Texas. You guys operate all over the country. You’re also the author of a book about your family, right? So this is something that’s very integral to your life. You wrote a book about it called “The Thundering Herd”. Available on Amazon.com we’re going to have it on our essential reading list as well in Texasbusinessradio.com. Tell us a little bit about the book and your motivation for writing.
John Peltier: My motivation for writing it was there was history that my father had. I was a medic in Vietnam in 1967 and 69. My father worked for 93rd medical battalion in World War II in Europe. I’ve got pictures in the book about that.
Matt Register: Sure.
John Peltier: I don’t have a single story about his two years in Europe. Not one. And that, I guess was my biggest motivation. Because I didn’t want us brothers and siblings to leave this world and all those stories leave it with them. And there’s some stories I promise you… And I mentioned one earlier today to you guys, that you have never heard of.
Jay Curry: You don’t want to lose that.
Yeah, that’s great. It’s called “The Thundering Herd”. Like I said we’ll have it on the Web site it’s on Amazon. I’m looking forward to reading it. Thank you very much for it. John Peltier who is the founder of Peltier Brothers Construction. Thank you John for joining us.
Jay Curry: Congratulations by the way it’s not easy to do what you pulled off.
John Peltier: Thank you guys for having me. It’s always a joy to be able to talk to someone about things you love.
Matt Register: That’s exactly right. Their web site by the way is Peltierbrothers.com, peltiersbros.com. And we’ll have that link on the Web site as well if you want to learn more. Fascinating company. We got a lot more family businesses is coming up. Family businesses are hard. We’re going bring you guys that get it right. Go ahead get your calls in guys. We’ll be back right after this. We’ve got to take a break. Don’t go anywhere. You don’t have time to go anywhere. We’ll be back right after this.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.