WHITTIER, CA ā April 1, 2019 ā Joseph O. Oltmans II announced his retirement as chief executive officer and chairman of the board, after 55 years of service at Oltmans Construction Co.
Oltmans continues as chairman emeritus, and John Gormly, former president, succeeds Oltmans as CEO and chairman of the board. Gormly has been an integral member of the company since 1975.
Replacing John Gormly as president is Charles āCharlieā Roy, former senior vice president and the grandson of Oltmans Construction Co.ās first founding partner, Dennis Roy Sr. He has also played a vital role on the Oltmans Construction team since joining the company in 1984.
I became involved in the family business when I was a sophomore in high school. I was 15 or 16 when I started working in the field as a laborer. I was learning how to dig ditches and clean lumber to earn spending money.
At one point, I thought maybe I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer; but that was a pipe-dream. I pretty much decided that I wanted to work for my dad and my grandfather after college.
I started working in the office at Oltmans in 1964. I was 25 years old. Previous to that, I was working here during the summers while I went to school. I slowly transitioned to full-time during my last few college courses.
Once I started college, I worked summers in the office. I picked up plans, ran bids, and learned some estimating. My grandfather was still doing some take-off work for us in those days, so he taught me how to do take-offs. I never became a real hard-bid estimator, but earlier in my career, Ray Larson mentored me on square-foot estimating. In the past, we had not done a whole lot of conceptual estimating. Most of our work was hard-bid. Ray Larson became really good at conceptual estimating and he taught me how to do that.
Yes, I went into project management and managed a few jobs. I started getting involved in the real estate side of the business. I would manage anything we had interest in.
My father always wanted to be in real estate, and I had a degree in real estate from the University of Southern California. We started doing a little of this, a little of that in some of our former buildings, and I got to know some real estate brokers and was exposed to more projects. Fairly early in the game, we were introduced to Principal Mutual Life and they partnered up with us on about 30 different projects. We did a number of them with John OāDonnell.
First of all, heās the grandson of my grandfatherās partner, Dennis āD.J.ā Roy, Sr. His family has been involved with the company for ages. D.J. Roy, Sr. had four sons, three of which have worked in the Oltmans Construction business. There was Charlieās father, Robert āBobā Roy, James Roy who used to work in our T.I. division, and Dennis Roy Jr. who was a senior project manager for years.
I knew Charlie when he was born. Heās the one from the Roy family who has always wanted to be involved in the company, aside from his father and grandfather. Charlie Roy ran our Special Projects and Real Estate divisions before he eventually transitioned to his role as vice president, senior vice president and now, president. We had a need in the real estate department, and he stepped in and learned the job. In fact, heās very good at it.
Before any of that, though, Charlie worked in the yard and field every summer in high school, and began working in the office over summers during college, similar to my experience.
Everything evolves. The tilt-up business has evolved. In the past, we used to build buildings that were 10,000 square feet, and the size of buildings have since grown larger and larger. Finishing techniques have evolvedābefore the use of laser screeds, we used to finish concrete by hand. Roof structures have also changed. In the old days, they had wood-bow trusses, then they evolved to tapered steel gurters, to glulam beams, and now trusses.
When I first started, we did a lot of hard-bid work, and then we got to negotiating some work, and in the 80s, we did quite a lot of development. 60-percent of our work was for our own account with partners. And then that business changed. The development business became very institutional, so we haven’t done much of it in recent years.
I would say the ten-story office building that we built for Security National Bank in Westwood, CA, the 500,000-square-foot office building for Hughes Aircraft in Culver City and some of the development projects for John OāDonnell were very memorable, and good sizes for us, back in the day.
Also, the Olive Crest project was our first major charitable involvement. One of our project managers volunteered at Olive Crest as a mentor. They had a need for new classrooms in Riverside County, so we decided to take action. At the time, with our ability to put pro bono funding into the project, we established the building foundation. One of our first competitors then called me out of the blue, explaining that there was an organization called the Orange County Rescue Mission, a soup kitchen and shelter based in Santa Ana, that had an opportunity to purchase a piece of real estate at the Tustin Air-Base. I was looking for a project like this, and it just fit for what we wanted to do. He took me out to meet Jim Palmer, president of the OC Rescue Mission, and we walked through the old Marines barracks where he showed us their plans for construction. I said, āWe are on. We will see this thing through.ā Oltmans Construction donated materials and labor over a 7-year period to complete the project. The Orange County Rescue Mission became the countyās largest privately funded human service agency for the poor and homeless. This was achieved without one penny of the taxpayersā money.
If I left any legacy at Oltmans, this would be something I would want to leave.
That was in 1948, before my time. That was really my dad, who went to school and learned about tilt-ups. The tilt-up concept has been around for quite some time but has evolved over the years.
We took it year by year; I never really thought of what it could be. We just tried to grow it as best as we could, with the capital that we could raise, because itās a very capital-intensive business. Itās been amazing these last few years. We came out of the recession and weāve done really well.
What I love most about our growth is all the young people. Thereās so much energy and theyāre all so intelligent and well-educated. Itās a lot of fun to see. Thatās one of the most enjoyable aspects of our growth.
You have to be willing to change and be open to new ideas. Some are better than others, but you have to be open to new opportunities. Itās just constant; you have to constantly work to stay relevant.
We are very professional and competent. We are competent in the field. Of all the companies that I know, we have more integrity. We are more honest, more open. A handshake means something to us. When we make a verbal commitment, we stand by it. I donāt think there are many companies around that are truly like that.
I donāt know if this sets us apart or not from our competition, but Iām very proud of the fact that we have a profit-sharing trust, especially for as big as the company is now. Itās all money that the company has put in for our employeesā retirement.
I think thatās come forwardāitās been passed down from my grandfather, my dad, Bob Holmes, and myself. Thatās something we try to drive home. Itās very important in our culture. Working for a company with integrity, you have to be happy with your job. Itās easier representing a company that youāre proud of.
One example is a previous project of ours in Northern California. We experienced some issues with the slab, so we tore out 60- to 70,000-square-feet of slab and replaced every inch of it. We didnāt have to do that. We lost a million dollars on that job. Quality is very important and integrity is very important.
Well, my dad for sure. I looked up to my grandfather, but I didnāt work with him long. I think my dad was an early mentor of mine. Also, Ray Larson, D.J. Roy Sr., and Bob Holmes (prior Oltmans president and general manager).
Hopefully my experience can count for something. I canāt really add much to the professionalism and the quality of what we do, because itās the young people who are doing the workāand many of them have surpassed me in their abilitiesābut I hope that Iāve demonstrated what it means to have integrity and professionalism in your career.
Itās time to make a little room at the top.
I feel very blessed to be able to do what I love, and for over 55 years. Not many people get to do that. I feel very fortunate. I enjoy working at Oltmans, and itās really important that other people enjoy working here.
It seems as though I have to get to the top of the mountain to see whatās on the other side. Generally, I want to take more time off and travel more, but I also want to be more involved in charitable work.
I think I got this from my dad and my grandfather ā to build with integrity, honesty, and hard work.
That is what has seen us through some hard times. People trust us because we have integrity; in addition, weāre good at what we do, of course.
I think you guys are doing great! We just need to carry on the business and adhere to the principles that we stand for. I think it will serve us well in the future.