Pedro Aguilar

Overcoming barriers and expanding business

PEDRO AGUILAR - AM Exteriors

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Pedro Aguilar is the CEO and founder of AM Exteriors. Pedro immigrated to the United States in 2001 from Honduras, spending eight months in Los Angeles before moving up to Seattle. In Los Angeles, Pedro worked as a laborer on stucco projects. As he mastered stucco, Pedro also took up plastering during his short time in California. Before year’s end, Pedro decided to move up to Seattle to join family. In Seattle, there was little use for Pedro’s skills in stucco and plastering so he went to work as a laborer in siding construction. For Pedro, this was an exciting new challenge – learning and mastering a new profession, despite the comparatively low pay.

Within three years, Pedro was an assistant superintendent. However, he soon reached a crossroads with his employer and decided to go off on his own, founding Aguilar Siding in 2005 with his brother Dennis. In 2011, the company changed the name to AM Exteriors. Since then, Pedro has expanded within the siding construction industry and without, into real estate investing and development. Meanwhile, Pedro’s brother Dennis, has branched out to start AM Contracting.

We recently caught up with Pedro to see how he’s been doing, and to talk about AM Exterior’s success story and ABC of Western Washington’s (ABCWW) support over the years.

Tell us about how AM Exteriors came to be and the challenges along the way.

I decided to part ways with my employer and decided to go at it alone. At first, I was afraid of the unknowns and the uncertainty. My brother and uncle were working for the same company at the time, and I asked them to join me. They left with me and together we started what today is AM Exteriors. 

It was definitely hard at first. There were two main barriers for me. First was the language barrier. I was taking ESL classes and constantly learning, but still struggling. Communication was a big challenge in the beginning. I’m still learning and perfecting my English today, but it took hard work and it was a challenge. Second, I didn’t know many people in the city that I could do business with or connect with clients through. At that early point I was doing everything by myself. Administration, estimating, marketing… as many small businesses, I had to do everything. My small apartment was my office back then. 

How did you first become involved with ABCWW?

Three or four years ago we began to hear about all the great things ABCWW was doing in supporting small businesses like ours. Jason, our chief operations officer, first introduced us to them. Jason really brought to my attention all the ways ABCWW could help us and make us stronger as a business. Some of my team attended training programs like ABCWW’s Rising Stars program and other classes. We have been really impressed with the resources that ABCWW has to offer across many different areas of business. It has been incredibly helpful to us.

We learned so much from ABCWW. They would even lend space for when we would need to have a staff meeting. They’d offer educational resources for all our employees at their facilities. Those resources have been a big benefit to us. The connections we’ve made through the organization have helped as well. It’s great to have a group of people that support you, a group that you can rely on.

What benefits of ABCWW membership have had the greatest impact for AM Exteriors?

Safety is definitely an important benefit to us. One of the great things about ABCWW is that they are very responsive, they are willing to come to the job site and give us their expertise. They tell us what we’re doing right and where we’re going wrong – bringing in experts to help us better our safety and protection procedures is important for our employees, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), and our general contractors. That’s been very valuable and we’ve been quite happy with that.

What ABCWW does on the policy and legal side of things is also important. They keep us informed about the latest laws and regulations, and tell us how it can impact small businesses like ours. Plus, ABCWW’s Retro program has been great for us. Thanks to it we get money back – it’s a good way we can help our employees, either investing it back into safety and the company or compensating our workers.

The value we have gotten, especially recently, has been immense. From the start of COVID-19, ABCWW has been really proactive. I participated in a few video calls that helped us understand the guidelines. There were so many questions and unknowns, especially in construction, but they were there when we needed it and gave us information that prepared us to starting working when we could again.

What does it mean to make something beautiful and how does that impact your approach to work?

When you have been working for many months – sometimes there are projects that last a year or even two years – completing a project is one of the most incredible feelings. The feeling of making the city or the neighborhood more attractive, more beautiful, is incomparable. In our line of work, we get to contribute to making something beautiful. Helping build houses or apartment buildings, for example, where someone will live and have a great place to raise their family – that’s why we do what we do.

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