A flood that wiped out his Reno-based S.C.U.B.A. manufacturing business in 1997, 9/11, the Great Recession and COVID-19.
“I could have become a victim, but I was never going to do that,” said Peronteau, who started AEC in San Francisco in 2005 and opened a San Diego location 10 years ago. “Bad things happen throughout your life and you’ve just got to put your pants on, get back to it and go to work.”
Primarily supplying accounting and bookkeeping support to small businesses, Peronteau and his eight employees (six in San Diego) also offer business consultation to help with regulatory and strategic needs, tax preparation and personal and corporate payroll services.
AEC works with about 175 clients, 60 of them in San Diego. Before the pandemic, Peronteau said he would commute every other week to San Francisco but after becoming comfortable and savvy with Zoom, he now travels north once a month for a week at a time.
Peronteau minces no words when he talks about his clientele. He said when he first started the bookkeeping business in San Francisco, all of his clients were gay-owned businesses. “We’re a gay-owned business catering to gay-owned businesses or gay-friendly businesses,” he said. “If they’re not either of those, we won’t take them on.”
“I just put a rule in place then that said that,” Peronteau said. “I don’t need your business if you’re not gay or gay-friendly. I have had to fire clients for exactly that reason, for making a comment under their breath that was demeaning.”
“I do seek out gay-friendly and gay-owned businesses. I know they’ve been challenged over history and I want to help. I knock on wood that I am in a place where I get to determine what kind of clients we take on.”
Peronteau said AEC seeks out and tries to stay with small businesses. The company has two larger businesses it works with but focuses on those with 10 employees or less.
Spoiling Clients is What AEC Does Best
“We spoil the hell out of our clients,” he said, and also noted that his company has continued to grow its client base every year.
“We are going to have a record year this year,” he said. “We had one last year also.”
Peronteau has reason to be happy that he is in a comfortable position with his career. It wasn’t always that way.
The first company he owned in California was a S.C.U.B.A. manufacturing firm, which he ended up moving to Reno in the early 1990s.
In 1997, the area was hit by a major flood of the Truckee River.
“My building flooded for 18 hours and there was 36 inches of water,” he recalled. “I was able to secure emergency disaster funds and got loans but then 9/11 hit. Two years later, I had to shut that company down and I moved to San Francisco.”
He started working with a trucking company for a few years, but they shut down after the recession in the mid-2000’s and was laid off for the first time in his life.
“Friends said I should start a bookkeeping firm, that they needed help,” he said. “I was working as a contractor for them, so two years later I started the business in 2005.”
He said he started thinking about what he wanted to do after he retired, and said he wanted to retire in San Diego, so he opened another AEC in San Diego in 2012.
He said that while COVID-19 was challenging at times, AEC was considered an essential business and was able to follow health and safety protocols and mandates to continue keeping its doors open.
Peronteau, 64, said he has plans to retire when he is 70, and that one of his employees has expressed interest in taking over his business.
After he’s done working, he hopes to continue to spend time with his rescue dog, indulge his “weakness” of buying cars (Teslas and currently an Aston Martin) and travel, particularly to his favorite spot – England.
“I don’t know what it is about that country,” Peronteau said of England. “They love us, although they don’ tlike our politics. We are their closest ally because we came from England. Our laws are based on theirs. I always have a good time there. I used to travel there three or four times a year but I have been too busy now to go that often. When I retire I would like to travel there again.”
American Eagle Consulting
CEO: Dale Peronteau
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego (Talmadge), San Francisco
BUSINESS: Full-service accounting
EMPLOYEES: San Diego 6, San Francisco 2
CONTACT: San Diego: (619) 487-0143
NOTABLE: Peronteau has run 17 different companies and says AEC “is the last!”