Most people may not like change, but change was the common thread through everything talked about at ISE Corp., a provider of clean energy, heavy-duty vehicle propulsion technology. From the industry, the technology, the company and the background of its president and CEO, Rick Sanders, everything is moving forward.
“I don’t think anyone likes change,” Sanders says with a laugh. “I think it’s obviously important to continue to be more efficient in our use of fuels and certainly with the whole concern about greenhouse gases and the effects on the environment.
“We need to make change, there’s no other way around it,” he stresses. “I think as people start understanding the reason for change, they’re more inclined to accept it, to embrace it.”
Maintaining the Right Attitude
ISE is located about 20 minutes outside San Diego in the mountains of Poway, Calif.
Juxtaposed with the stress of change is the tone of Sanders’ office and the rolling mountains outside. The first thing that jumps out at you in his office is the wall-sized mural of a tropical scene, a hammock among palm trees inviting you in to relax. Adjacent to that is a warm-toned tropical painting, next to the wall of windows looking out to the mountains in the horizon.
He says he likes the relaxed atmosphere that the images project. And with all that’s going on at ISE, some calmness is a good thing.
“What motivates me is change, so that’s why I came here,” Sanders says. He says he’s motivated by the challenge of taking the company from where it was and positioning it through a difficult growth, and also a cultural change, to a high-volume, credible manufacturing company that continues to grow and go public.
“That’s the challenge that I like, I don’t know why.” He adds with a laugh, “Also why I don’t have any hair left.”
Sanders was recruited by the board of directors to come in as COO and president. The company was thinking about going public in the United States at the time and the prior CEO, also the founder, needed some more management experience on the team.
With a hybrid technology background, Sanders came on board for his expertise on taking companies through high-transition points or taking them public.
“When you’re taking a company through a major transition point, it’s a cultural shift, you have to put in your processes, new ways of thinking, a new way of doing business and sometimes employees embrace that, accept it and race ahead and pull you there, and other times there’s resistance or they just don’t have the skill set or background knowledge,” he says of transitions.
“You have to bring people that have done it and that’s the only way you get through it because you can’t do everything yourself.” He emphasizes, “You have to delegate; you have to bring in people that you know you have confidence in.”
Talking about ISE Sanders says, “I think we’re kind of at a tipping point right now where we’ve come a long way with basic technology.
“We’ve got some traction in gasoline hybrid systems and a few other areas, we’re still sub-scale in terms of being where we want to be in order to really scale that and the market is continuing to grow.” He adds, “I think ISE has been around longer than any other kind of hybrid, heavy-duty hybrid developer and as a result, has a lot of experience and trial-and-error so they’ve put out a lot of different types of demonstration vehicles early on with different fuel types and different size engines, configurations.
“Where others have kind of focused in on one core area, ISE has developed a very broad breadth of experience and how to apply it best in the application.”
What the folks at ISE are really excited to talk about right now is what is happening in the energy storage space. Decreasing the engine size decreases your emissions, and as a result, you have to increase your energy storage capability.