Creating “Happy Problems”

“We call it our ‘WIG,’ a Wildly Important Goal—add people, add the right kind of people.” -Alex Estrada

Exeter Financial’s Alex Estrada shares his HR mantras that help him keep the human in human resources

You could say Alex Estrada creates a synergy that Irving, Texas-based Exeter Financial Corp. has never seen before. As vice president of human resources for the sub-prime loan corporation, Estrada and his team of seven hired more than 500 people in the last year and expect to hire another 700 this year. Learning from the ground up, Estrada’s seasoned nobility catalyze his innate talent of forming a dream team.
When he headed to college, like many entering freshman, Estrada was bewildered for a career choice. Call it fate or happenstance, but Estrada found his calling after taking an HR elective course at his alma mater, the University of North Texas.

Trading words with

Alex Estrada

Success

Means having a satisfying customer experience.

innovation

Working collaboratively, with all the available resources.

Integrity

I pride myself in having extreme integrity. We have to ensure integrity in personal and regulatory issues, especially in an HR role.

Latino

It gives me the diversity I need to be effective with a broader scope of people; an understanding of how they interact and thrive. Whether it’s apparent or not the culture is in me.

Fresh out of college with an HR degree, Estrada landed his first career-driven job at Dallas-based The Mail Box, Inc., a privately held direct-mail company. Over the course of 13 years, Estrada was instrumental in increasing the employee base from 88 to 800, growing more than 800 percent.

Estrada hit the ground running for The Mail Box—acting as an entire HR department. He handled everything from hiring and firing, to disciplinary actions, insurance enrollment, workers compensation, and background checks. “That’s where I learned all of my HR skills, because I literally did all of it from the ground up,” Estrada says.

But, Estrada wanted to expand his career. He transitioned from the small company to a vice president position with media-conglomerate Time Warner Cable, formerly a subsidiary of Time Inc. Estrada was there for 10 years before moving on to Brink’s, Inc., another large international company.

Estrada received a LinkedIn message that changed his career path yet again. Beginning with a fundamental background in small business and transitioning into corporate conglomerations, his business model and intrepid professionalism got him hired with Exeter, which is owned by asset management company, Blackstone Group. Estrada’s skills to form an effective HR team would be conducive to the company’s objective to rapidly grow.

“This exponential, crazy growth has been organic growth,” says Estrada, who believes that the constantly changing cultural landscape of the company is a “happy problem” that creates an invigorating office-wide excitement. “What makes this so much fun here at Exeter, is that we’re in this culture change together.”

Estrada strives for his tenacious team to be transparent and work together. As one of the most important aspects to his career, he aims to keep the human in human resources, by providing real answers to questions, ensuring that each employee feels like HR is there for them as a partner and not just as a department. “My concern is not getting in the way of the growth and helping the business grow the business; [while] also ensuring we have great customer service.”

Amongst Exeter’s constant flux, Estrada focuses on the recruiting group, which has tripled since he joined in September 2011. “We call it our ‘WIG,’ a Wildly Important Goal: add people, but add the right kind of people.”

His general approach is one of collaboration and consensus. He likes to lead, but he likes to do it collaboratively, knowing that everyone has something to offer—going forward with an entire team effort. That way, it’s not shortsighted or farsighted; it’s considering everything that the company has to offer front and center, he says.

At Exeter, there is a commonly shared nonthreatening philosophy of helping customers understand how they can pay their car loans based on their income. Through dedicated call centers, Exeter trains their employees on how to do “soft collections” by partnering with the customers so they feel comfortable sharing their financial situations to find a fitting budget plan.

“Our goal is to be one of the best and largest, used-car finance companies in the country. When we master that, then maybe we will start going into new car financing, but we need to grow to a certain point,” he says. “We’re not there yet, but when we get there, we will take a step back, survey the landscape, and ask, ‘What’s next for Exeter?’”

“We know we’re building something unique,” Estrada adds. “We love being a part of that. We’re all on the ground floor of this thing. That makes you want to come to work and say, ‘What challenges are there today that I can fix?’”

For Estrada, HR is all about customer service and supporting the employees and management staff. Sincerity is his mantra. “You can give good news, but you can also give bad news, if you do it sincerely,” he says. Estrada recognizes the importance of being consistent and treating people fairly by retaining an open-door policy.

Starting with an empty slate and climbing up the managerial latter, Estrada has taken on the human-resources industry by creating a well-built symbiosis in the work place. By unifying a small-business background with corporate culture, Estrada adds, “it has molded me in a way that I can function in this environment and function in it well.”