10 Questions with Chris McLaughlin

05/14/2024

At Perlo, our people are the secret to our success. Whether at a jobsite or in our office, we have a culture that encourages open dialogue and collaboration. This dedication to the spirit of partnership is reflected throughout our company and is a major reason Perlo is consistently recognized as a top place to work in Oregon

Today, we sit down with one of the most highly respected estimators in the industry and an invaluable VP and Partner at Perlo, Chris “CMac” McLaughlin. A 31-year employee of Perlo, Chris has led our Preconstruction Services department for at least a dozen years and continues to be a force in the local construction market and our company. Let’s get to know more about Chris!


What is your role at Perlo?

My role has definitely changed over the years with the growth of the company and a lot of what I do changes day-to-day. I help with conceptual budgets, estimate and budget reviews, as well as business development and early communication with clients related to upcoming projects. As part of the Leadership Team, there are always tasks to be addressed as part of the company’s operations.

How did you get started in construction?

I started out at Oregon State University in electrical engineering, but after a while, I realized I didn’t want to only build power lines; I just wanted to build. I ended up changing my major to Construction Engineering Management, and shortly after met Bill McCormack (Bill owned McCormack Pacific, which later evolved into Perlo). I was friends with his son, and after talking with him for a bit, I became interested in his company. I started as an intern, and my first project was actually helping remodel the Sandburg Street office. With Bill’s oversight, I basically ran the project and was paired with a rookie superintendent: Tim Kofstad. Tim is still one of our general superintendents.  

Fun fact: Back in those days, before cell phones, you had to order a landline for your job trailer for phone calls. I’ll never forget that number, 624-2090, as it became the company phone number once the project finished.

What do you consider to be our most important “Perlo Practice” and why?

I’d say it’s a tie between #3, “Everyone Empties the Trash,” and #6, “Stay Hungry.” They exemplify how Perlo has always been. We run lean and mean, and in order to do that, you can’t think you’re above any task. Every job is essential, and success requires everyone to be hands-on. Pride and arrogance won’t get you far in this business, either. In this business we don’t win every project and you have to be able to shake it off and move on to the next without letting it get to you. Stay hungry, keep the fire to move forward, and don’t be afraid to get hands-on.

How do you see the industry evolving in the near future and what can Perlo do to adapt to these changes?

The biggest change we’re going to see is the aging workforce. In the next decade, a huge chunk of the labor force is set to retire, this will be a serious problem if we don’t get the younger generations more interested in joining the industry. I think a big part of that is changing the conversation around entering the trades. It’s a stable job with high wages and endless opportunities. Nurturing the younger people entering this industry through internships, mentorships, and hands-on experience is so important, too. If we don’t, I think we’ll lose the spirit of being true builders.

What is your pet peeve?

When people are late. Being prepared and a few minutes early shows you care, you’re focused, and that you respect people’s time

What do you like to do for fun?

My wife and I are big travelers. Whether it’s locally or farther away, we love to travel. I’ve got kids in three different states now, which definitely accounts for some of the traveling we do, but I also love a sunny beach somewhere warm. More regularly, I like playing pickleball, tennis, and just being outdoors. I really like bird watching. I actually have a tracking sheet and some binoculars at my desk to track the birds from the marsh by the office. Outside of work, I regularly go to the Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge with my scope and camera and take pictures of the wildlife there.

What or who inspires you?

My family, definitely my family. Being able to watch my kids grow up into full-fledged adults and having their own families really inspires me. Getting to watch your kids be happy adults is a really rewarding part of parenting.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to enter the construction industry?

This industry is not easy, it takes hard work, and there seems to be a never-ending supply of new challenges. I mean, I’ve been doing this for most of my life, and still, I find myself saying, “I’ve never seen that one before,” at least once a week. There are all kinds of people and personalities, and you have to be able to work with them all. But, if you can be flexible and adaptable, it’s incredibly rewarding. You get to actually make things that stand for years. Your work is out there, very public, and visible. You get to have a direct hand in someone’s business to help them grow. With all the frustrations comes a lot of fun, too.

How do you handle high-pressure situations or heavy workloads?

You have to stay organized. However, that looks to you. There are a lot of moving parts in this industry, and you have to keep them all straight. Your day will change – that’s just a fact – and you have to be willing to change with it. For me, that means following priorities and early mornings. If I can’t do ten things at once, then I start with the task with the highest payoff, and I give it my full attention. When required, I come in early and get caught up before the phones start ringing. An hour of uninterrupted time can save my whole day.

Why Perlo? What makes us unique?

At Perlo, we genuinely enjoy what we do. We collectively think our jobs are fun. The field work is fun. The proposal writing is fun. The bids are fun (sometimes). The early mornings and late nights are hard sometimes, but we find a way to make them fun. A big part of that goes back to my favorite Perlo Practice: everyone empties the trash. Every level in this company buys in to the success of our work. On a bid we did earlier this year every single member of the leadership team was in the room, calling subs, checking numbers, assessing risk, and helping the team win the project. A project manager will talk with dozens of different people in a day, from a building client to electricians to their Assistant Project Manager, and they’ll talk to each person the same way – with respect and understanding. That’s just something very special you won’t find at other companies.

Final Thoughts

Thank you, Chris, for sharing your story with us! If you’re interested in opportunities to work with Perlo, check out our Careers page today.