PW Power Systems CEO Raul Pereda Talks Leadership & Winning Company Culture

PW Power Systems president and CEO Raul Pereda is an engineer by degree, but his keen interest in business, sales expertise and deep knowledge of his company’s products and customers has made for a seamless transition into the corner office during his first 18 months on the job.

PW Power Systems, a group company of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, specializes in manufacturing, distributing, delivering and maintaining gas turbine packages and flexible power solutions around the world. Originally a business unit of Pratt & Whitney/United Technologies, PWPS was purchased by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 2013.

Pereda has been with PWPS since 2007, and before being named president and CEO was responsible for worldwide sales and marketing of all PWPS products and services, as well as directing product and market expansion and business development activities. Before joining PWPS, Pereda held management positions in Pratt & Whitney’s military engine business.

Since taking over as PWPS president and CEO in April 2017, Pereda has worked to help improve synergy between his Glastonbury, Connecticut-based organization and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas’ regional headquarters in Lake Mary, Florida.

“We wanted to take advantage of the fact that we were both in this part of the world, reinforce each other,” Pereda says. “To be able to work with their sales and marketing team, for example, and to leverage some of the service centers they have. They’ve got a manufacturing facility in Georgia, as well as repair centers in Orlando. We did that transition in April of this year.”

Bolstering that internal working relationship while keeping customers happy has been a challenge for Pereda and his team, but with customer satisfaction figures at the highest they’ve ever been, the hard work is paying off.

“It’s been an exciting 18 months. This is my first time in a position like this,” Pereda told Chief Executive. “One thing that I’m very, very pleased about is that, in this tough environment, to be able to keep customer satisfaction high and for it to be the highest ever was a fantastic accomplishment.”

Chief Executive recently sat down with Pereda to talk about how his past experience has influenced him as CEO, the challenges of running a global organization and the importance of company culture at PWPS. Here’s what he had to say:

How his past experiences have informed him as CEO

I’m an engineer by degree. I started with Pratt & Whitney as an engineer, but I’ve always been interested in the business side of the business. Being an engineer, I’m curious about things, I’m hands on, I like to get involved and I like to be tactical, execute things and step back and say, “I did that.” But even in engineering I always had what I would say is a holistic view of what I’m doing, and I try to put it in perspective. I would say that led me out of engineering and into the program office/sales/business development area.

I was a sales manager, initially, and then I was VP of sales before taking on this position. I always look beyond just the opportunity to sell product or services and I always looked at it from a customer perspective—what’s the environment that that customer is in that would motivate them to select us? Then internally, we could just lower our price to the minimum and sell, but what would that do to the business? So I always was very aware and very cognizant of the financial implications, the legal implications, the regulatory requirements, what it would mean to our manufacturing and supply base. I always viewed myself as not just a salesman for the company, but I behaved like it was my business.

I always looked at it in a broader sense, and I think that prepared me—including the customer perspective. And to me customers are not just the external customer but my internal customer. So as a salesperson I’m dependent on the team here: the finance managers, the attorneys, the procurement folks, the proposal people. Those were all my customers, as well. It was important to get those groups engaged, to get those groups to support our effort. At the end of the day, selling products and services is what’s important, but being able to do so where the whole company is supporting you in a focused way was really important. I really always thought that I was different in that way, that I wasn’t just the average sales guy looking at just making a deal. If it didn’t make sense for the company, I took that into account as well.

“ I am very cognizant of the importance of our employee population, but I also want to make sure that they feel they’re engaged.”

In terms of the challenges and surprises, I would say even though I was always very sensitive and I think I have very good situational awareness about our employees and the people around me, whether it’s the customer or I’m at a conference or here in the office, what really has been underscored for me is the importance of focusing on employee development, employee growth, employee motivation. Like I said, I was an engineer at the beginning of my career and I’ve had to shift a little bit from the tactical to the more strategic and instead of coming in to work and saying, “Hey, what’s on my to do list today?” my to do list is more about how I speak, how I inspire people, how I set the stage so that this group of folks here in this building and those outside and in our offices around the world can be inspired to do well.

So some days it’s kind of interesting because you look at it and you say, “Well, you know, all I really did today was talk to people.” That sets the stage.

The importance of company culture at PW Power Systems and where it’s heading in the future

We’re a very close-knit family. I started at PW Power Systems in 2007, so I’ve been here for 11 years. Relatively speaking, that’s a short time in the power industry. One of the things that I ran into right away was, whether it was suppliers in the manufacturing base or customers or folks that have been doing this for 20, 30, 40 years and it’s that power generation is a mature industry. The aero-derivative industry is a relatively young industry. It really was born in the 1960s. That seems like a long time ago, but it’s really only been about 50 years. So we have people here that were either part of that beginning or very close to it or just one generation removed. I like the history of things and sharing with these individuals in their experiences and listening to them talk about the 60s and the 70s and the 80s when these products were really beginning to take hold. And in that regard, we’re really a close-knit family of professionals that have been part of this industry for a long time and many of them for most of their careers.

That sharing of the legacy and the sharing of the pride that we have in this business I see this every day. I think that that is fantastic because when I started at Pratt in 1984 as an engineer in the jet engine business, you could say the same thing. The jet engine business was really born after World War II, so it really wasn’t that old. I used to work for a vice president who worked with the two inventors of the jet engine. He had pictures of himself at their drawing boards. I just thought that was really cool.

I really appreciate that we have people like that. A challenge for me is to continue that sense of pride, to provide these folks a platform for speaking and for me to share the things that I’ve learned with them with the next generation of folks. We are starting to see folks retire and then as we bring new employees on board, I want to make sure that they appreciate that heritage and that history.

The challenges and opportunities in running a global organization

It’s both challenges and opportunities for sure. When people ask me about the markets, they’re really different markets.

We have markets that are in developing countries that from a resource standpoint may not be in the same position as a more developed country and so the planning isn’t there, the discipline may not be there and their needs are different in terms of responsiveness. In the U.S. it would be very unlikely for a supplier to be surprised with a shortage of power generating equipment, but in some countries, they need power today that they probably needed 10 years ago and before. And then you have markets that are kind of in the middle. You also have opportunities, although it’s unfortunately under not-so-positive circumstances where you have disaster relief or emergencies, right? And so, these are maybe three or four different kinds of markets that our sales organization, our procurement organization, we have to be in tune with where these markets are and what the needs are. So that’s a challenge because we have to know the cultures—things like language, things like contracting norms, regulatory requirements. All of these things are different whether you’re doing a contract in Libya or Algeria or New York or Venezuela, they’re very different. And so we need expertise in things like taxes, import, export duties, contracting language, things of that sort.

With the global nature of the business, the challenges are our need to be able to understand and do business in all these different regions, but it also provides different opportunities and if we were focused on one region, you would go up and down just as a function of that region. We’ve got units installed all over the world. Half of them are outside the U.S., half of them are in the U.S. So it’s a very nice mix.

On how his leadership style has evolved

I would say it’s more of a natural progression, the transition from the tactical to the strategic. My nature is pretty open and pretty approachable. I think that’s been well-received, but I’ve been that way all my life, so I wouldn’t say that’s something that I’ve developed. I’ve gotten very good feedback and I think people find that I’m honest and open.

From an internal employee relationship perspective, I am very cognizant of the importance of our employee population, but I also want to make sure that they feel they’re engaged, that they feel that they are communicated with and that those who want to know more than just what they’re working on, that we have open communications and I can share that with them. So, that’s something that I think I’m pretty good at, but I want to continue to develop.

The one area that I see as an opportunity for me, as the market picks back up again, is to take this company and make employees continue to feel proud to work here. We have some product development initiatives which I think are going to help us position ourselves better in the future.

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Patrick Gorman :Patrick Gorman is managing editor of Chief Executive magazine and Corporate Board Member magazine. He is based in Stamford, CT.