30-year-old Pete Hanes is a member of the business development team at Aeroform, a custom manufacturer of urethane foam and fiberglass parts and components. Located in Kansas City, Missouri, Aeroform’s products can be found in many niche markets such as sporting goods, medical equipment, furniture, ergonomics, and automotive. They take pride in never compromising on quality and never missing a deadline. Aeroform provides original equipment manufacturers with specialty urethane, fiberglass, and composite components that perform perfectly—every time. 

Five Questions with Pete Hanes

Title aside, what would you say it is that you do in your current position?

I am in sales and product development at Aeroform. I find a customer that has the need for our services, establish exactly what it is that they need from us, and manage a team a team of primarily three people (Mold Maker, Shop Manager, and Foreman) in the fiberglass shop that brings ideas to fruition and makes our clients’ needs a reality. I am essentially the middleman between the customer and the folks in our shop that are creating product based on our clients’ needs.

How do you see your experience in Next Leader Now making you a better boss going forward?

Next Leader Now has significantly improved my communication methods with my colleagues and the folks I manage. I have always considered myself to be a fairly good communicator, but through participating in this program, I am able to differentiate between effective and ineffective communication. Next Leader Now helped open my eyes to things that were continually happening (i.e. missing deadlines) due to miscommunication and the frustration that occurred because of things.

This program has helped me realize how much more I need to communicate with the folks I manage. Since starting the program, I have been meeting with my team daily, regardless or whether or not I need them to get something done. These daily meetings keep the lines of communication open, as well as assist us with accountability and workload prioritization.

Finally, the dissection of the DiSC assessment helped me to better understand our President at Aeroform. We are very different; opposite ends of the spectrum. While we were in constant communication with one another, we were not speaking the same language. Now that I’ve gone through the program and am more self-aware, as well as educated on how to communicate more effectively with the different DiSC styles, there are fewer misunderstandings and less things slipping through the cracks.

Given that your organization is making this investment in you, would you say that you’re more likely to pursue career growth within the organization rather than looking elsewhere?

I actually own 20% of the company, and my dad owns the other 20% of the company, with the final third being owned by investors. So I’m here no matter what! Still, if this wasn’t the case and I was looking for a position at another company and they offered me training of the stature, I would take it in a heartbeat. As Buddy Hobart calls it, “hitching your wagon to a strong horse,” is something Millennials are apt to do. We want something more out of a job than just showing up everyday. The Next Leader Now program is that “something” we are attracted to!

One of the early exercises in the program is developing a personal vision that guides your overall personal strategic plan. What impact do you think Next Leader Now has had and will have on your ability to achieve that vision?

This is one of the aspects of Next Leader Now that has been extremely beneficial. Having a personal vision helps me to define what I want to accomplish at Aeroform. As an owner of the business, I create my own value here. I have to have a specific set of goals or there will be no goals for me to attain. This part of the program gave me the ability to visualize and verbalize my goals with my Solutions 21 Coach, Ed Vahola, and helped me realize how undefined our goals as a company actually were. Through brainstorming the things that were important to me personally and important to the company, I was able to establish a structure for attacking and attaining real-world, actionable goals through my work with Ed, which is something that has never been done before.

What would you say is the secret sauce of Next Leader Now and why?

For me, the secret sauce of Next Leader Now is two-fold. The first is the quality of the people. I get a lot out of my one-on-one coaching sessions with Ed since I’m the kind of person who likes to sit down, talk, and bounce ideas off of someone I hold in high regard. Ed has been this type of coach to me. In fact, all of the coaches at Solutions 21 are high caliber. Between Tyler, Rob, and Ed, the coaching team in Next Leader Now applies all aspects of the program in a customizable fashion and with outstanding professionalism. They are extremely knowledgeable and actually want to help you to succeed.

The other, for me, is the DiSC assessment. I’ve completed various personality-type assessments in my career, but nothing compares to both the DiSC assessment and the breakdown that comes with it. I’ve never been a part of an assessment with such detail-oriented follow through. The DiSC assessment is a core aspect of Next Leader Now and while I consider myself a pretty self-aware person, it definitely surprised me with how much light it shed on all of the dynamics within my workplace, friendships, and relationships outside of work. It’s a great tool.

Bonus Question

If you could bust one myth about Millennials, what would it be?

This is the tough part! (Laughs)

Millennials are not trying to take anyone’s job. They understand that their superiors worked extremely hard and put in the years to get where they are. So, while there is this stigma that Millennials think that they should have c-suite jobs without putting in any work, it’s simply not true. Millennials want to advance. Yes. Millennials are hungry. Yes. But Millennials are capable of creating value for themselves in their current roles without “cannibalizing” their superiors. They don’t want to steal your jobs! They just want the same success that their superiors have achieved. They want to find a way to become as valuable as those that are in superior roles.

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