Southern California’s Premier Hospitality Construction Firm
Written by Ken Lambert, CSI & Ariana Jennell
When you open R.D. Olson Construction’s website you are greeted with the phrase, “When Every Detail Counts”, which goes beyond being an opening statement. For the past 37 years, this Orange County (California) based company has been embracing that motto for every project and embedding it into the very core of their identity. Every associate is dedicated to taking the ideas of their clients and turning them into a reality while finding innovative solutions and tackling challenges in a way that makes them stand out from the competition.
“It’s not a race for stats or ranking,” explains Bill Wilhelm, President of R.D. Olson. “It’s an opportunity to exceed expectations and build our customer base, as well as building up our employees. In order to do that we have to take on chances to grow our infrastructure and employees internally. If you stay stagnant you limit opportunities for employees to improve. It’s all about quality over quantity; for us quality will always come first.”
One of the key traits of R.D. Olson Construction is to understand the customer’s product and vision. They negotiate 80 percent of their business and are always working closely with the customer to build something that they are happy with and the company is proud of. Over time they have seen an increase in design-build type projects and have a sister company whose sole purpose is new development. Both work as very selective companies that know how to manage and make what they work on a success. Whether it is initially just a sketch on a napkin or a particularly detailed mission, the end result will always be what the customer wants to achieve.
Considering the amount of significance that is placed on the customer, R.D. Olson maintains a focus on keeping already existing clients satisfied. These strong relationships are what they use to build their future endeavors. A belief that Bill Wilhelm likes to impart on his employees is that if 80 percent of the effort is put into the relationships with the clients that they already have, then it will generate 70 percent of the opportunities coming in. A major part of that is the company’s use of its resources, which focus on those relationships and not geographic boundaries for where they will and won’t build. Clients value working with 1 or 2 key RD Olson individuals that will be managing the project from the design development and estimating stage all the way through complete build out, punch list and property walks with property management.
A company that they have had a continuous relationship with is Marriott, with whom they are completing a project in the fall of 2017. R.D. Olson has been thrilled to be a part of constructing the Irvine Spectrum Marriott, one of Marriott’s first “millennial-style” hotels which will boast extraordinary amenities and indoor/outdoor experiences throughout. While this particular project happens to be in their backyard, R.D. Olson would gladly and has traveled in order to work with Marriott; that is one of the many ways in which they put their customers’ needs first. When other owners/developers see the dedication that R.D. Olson puts into those relationships they know that it is something they want to be a part of.
The relationships that they have established over the years are based in hospitality and restaurant construction expertise and a growing presence in healthcare, education and multi-unit projects. Although they have worked throughout the U.S. and are licensed in 22 states, 98 percent of their 2017 business is located in California. Currently, the other two percent is found in Arizona and Hawaii. They have been looking to expand their reach outside the state, but the focus is to grow with the companies they are already servicing. This dedication to growing alongside their customer is how they have become the $250 million revenue business that they are today.
Another notable project which R.D. Olson has taken on is the Nomad Hotel in Los Angeles. It is a 225 room hotel, existing in an adapted and reused twelve story building that was built in the early 1900’s. This conversion will include a rooftop addition which will include a sky bar, a penthouse and rooftop pool, as well as a 5-star restaurant within the hotel. Even with the amount of historical preservation and details that the company is working to maintain, the project is estimated to be done in less than twelve months. The challenges with this project have been the logistics and staging, since it is in an urban area which involves maneuvering around traffic and dealing with the possibility of shutting down streets. To that end, R.D. Olson rented the parking lot next door to the project in order to bring in a crane to lift the steel to the roof. The man power behind the project has been immense, with 250-300 workers onsite seven days a week. The timeline has been maintained despite the various challenges. These types of challenges are what R.D. Olson looks forward to and excel at, because the result of this boutique hotel will be something that they will look back and be incredibly proud of for years to come.
With the number of people working on these sites and the challenges that come with it, a common concern for larger construction companies is safety. When Bob Olson founded the company he had the vision that “Our Company is built off of our people; they are our greatest asset”, so the concern for the employees is a top priority. The company has a full time director of safety management and others on staff dedicated to inspecting and giving safety reports every week for each project. Training is provided for every job and everyone on site is focused on safety awareness. The amount of safety protocol and attention to that protocol is something that they attribute having among the lowest incident rates in the industry.
The care that is put into R.D. Olson’s employees extends beyond just safety. There is obviously an interest in growing the company, but even more than that there is a desire to grow the individuals that work within the company. They have an education reimbursement program that allows the employees to continue their education on whatever aspect that they deem would help them be a better person both independently and professionally. This, combined with the community involvement that the company is devoted to, encourages long term association because employees know that the company stands for not only its own improvement, but the improvement of others. The involvement in local communities is something that R.D. Olson prides itself on. One example of their commendable work towards the greater good is their ongoing seven year relationship with the Golf Charity Tournament for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, for whom they raised more than $60,000 in 2016 alone. It is this sort of long standing belief in making change that sets apart the R.D. Olson employee; they strive to make their workers the example of their company just as much as the projects that they complete.
That phrase, “When Every Detail Matters” comes into play on a wide array of levels. There are many things that factor into that motto, including the delivery of a project that meets the customer’s vision and building relationships that are meant to last. Inside the company they look to create employees that are consistently improving themselves and be an active part of the community. These qualities are the details, which R.D. Olson makes sure always matter.
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