July '19

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H ughes Autoformers General Manager Brett Thomas likes to keep things close to the vest most of the time. Hughes, based in Anaheim, Calif., supplies power and safety equipment to the RV industry. But there are times when he's extremely grateful that his uncle and business partner Pat Thomas is around as a family member he can trust and rely on. "They have your interest first, not the products, not profit," he says. "I am very thankful that both of the partners are very helpful in guiding me and teaching me something that I may not know or cannot find out on my own. It is good constructive criticism." Having that family member also makes for some enjoyable business trips. "We went to the last RVX show in Utah," Brett says. "I got to bond with him more and learn about his past, which is also my past through my father. I got to learn more about my family history, things which are important to me." But, Brett says, it is important to make sure to keep the business and family aspects separate most of the time. "You need to be professional at work at all times," he says. "It is too easy to slip up and feel like you have a free pass. However, that mistake or mess up could cost the company dearly, which then affects every employee. Keep business, business and family afterwards. At the same time, we all don't need to be super shirt-and-tie formalities." Still, it was Brett's choice to join a family member in the business. He had a couple of other ventures before joining Hughes Autoformers that gave him plenty of responsibility and sent him all over the world. "It must have been fate brought me to Hughes Autoformers," he says. S usan and Christopher Carpenter have worked together for 20 years. Elkhart, Ind.-based Creative Products Group, a supplier of Global Link products, is just their latest venture, and one the husband-and-wife team went into knowing each other's likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. And they also know the ins and outs of the RV industry by heart. "When you share an industry together, knowing the people and companies that are a part of your everyday life can be a lot of fun," Susan says. "You can discuss things on a whole other level. The other person knows what you are talking about and has input as well. Not to mention the perks of being able to travel places together. It opens up a lot of opportunities to see the world together. It's taken us to a lot of fun places. Even back in the early days when we would drag our kids along." But as many others have said, the Carpenters know the importance of not just being family but knowing how to get the best out of each other. "One year, we took 300 new products to market," Susan says. "We were a well- oiled machine and we always knew where the other was on the project. Because of this project, we were able to show an increase during the downturn of 2009. "We work really well together. I call it 'The Ying and Yang.' We complement each other. We have launched many programs that took a lot of blood, sweat and long hours. Where his talents end, mine usually pick up, and vice versa. We both have our own talent for things. It's always nice to have someone who you trust to have your back and know you can count on them to get the job done. After all, they have to go home with you, so you definitely don't want to fall short." But the Carpenters aren't just business partners. They are life partners. There are inevitable disagreements and sometimes work is hard to turn off. "At the end of a workday, you find yourselves still talking shop. It really takes a conscious effort to stop talking business over dinner or weekends." But the couple tries not to let conflict escalate beyond a discreet roll of the eyes or stern look. "There are definitely things you wouldn't say to a co-worker but you tend to be a little too honest with a spouse," Susan says. "It can be a little challenging that way. You ruffle feathers. But at the end of the day, we don't go to bed mad." It really has to be a give and take and always putting what is best for the company above everything else. RV PRO: ALL IN THE FAMILY July 2019 • RV PRO • 33 HUGHES AUTOFORMERS BRETT AND PAT THOMAS CREATIVE PRODUCTS GROUP SUSAN AND CHRISTOPHER CARPENTER Brett Thomas (above) and Pat Thomas (below)

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