Category: Perlo Culture
Last week, we celebrated the 25th annual Women in Construction week, a time dedicated to championing women in the industry. This year’s theme, ‘Many Paths, One Mission,’ celebrated the different journeys women have taken toward the same goal: strengthening and amplifying the success of women in construction.
We’re sitting down with Meghan Looney, Director of Human Resources at Perlo, to learn about her path into construction. As an employee of more than 8 years, Meghan’s background in marketing and public relations and her passion for people led to reforming human resources operations entirely at Perlo, and reimagining a company that is now recognized as an award-winning workplace culture.
1. What is your role at Perlo?
As the Director of Human Resources, I facilitate recruiting, company policies, benefits and compensation, performance reviews, legal compliance for employment, training and development, company communications and culture, and internal events. All that said, and simply put: I like to think I work to find good people and ensure our current people are happy with their work and employment at Perlo.
2. What led you to work in Human Resources?
I never thought of a career in human resources until I got to Perlo. I started in 2014 as a marketing coordinator, and through that, I was exposed to our unique family-feel environment. I fell in love our people saw a need for a more robust human resources department when we rapidly grew, and our people needed more tools to propel forward. So I spoke up about that! The position came naturally with my experience in public relations, communications and marketing, and my extroverted personality helped! Let’s just say the rest is history!
3. What is your favorite part of working for a construction company?
There are so many things I love about working in this industry! First, I love meeting and recruiting great people and helping them find their potential at Perlo, just like how I found my niche. Second, I enjoy welcoming and setting our new employees up for success. It’s important for me to support and empower our employees to reach their greatest potential, so they can give their best selves to the company, team members and our clients. I’m equally for our people and for our company. I am so proud of our work and know wholeheartedly that our people are the reason we do it so well.
Additionally, it’s rewarding to know that I help play a vital role in constructing a project, whether new construction or tenant improvements. I enjoy being a part of something bigger and seeing how our physical work, blood, sweat and tears positively impact the lives of many people, families and communities.
4. Recruiting is a hot topic. What challenges do you see to people wanting to enter this industry?
It’s different with office and field positions. For the office, it’s the unknown. We have people who intentionally got into construction, but we have a lot of people who only knew what construction work meant once they were here. I think the wide variety of people with diverse backgrounds are a testament to the great career opportunities this field offers.
On the field side, work in the trades can be challenged by inconsistent hours. In addition, with field work being cyclical, layoffs are common. We work hard to keep our crew members busy, even if we have a slowdown. There are also challenges for individuals to find enough consistent work as an intern, requiring travel, odd hours, things like that. If you have family duties and obligations, this kind of inconsistency can be a real trial.
I see the behind the scenes and how hard we work to keep our great workers busy, and it’s sometimes different at other companies. Employment at Perlo means something different. You aren’t just a number; you don’t get lost in the shuffle. I see our leadership standing by the Perlo Way every day and it really makes our team easy to sell.
5. What are the challenges facing our industry in the near and long term?
There are many exciting opportunities, but still some challenges. The more significant one, not surprisingly, is labor shortages. As construction continues to grow and we expand into different regions due to the lack of developable land, we need to get creative with how we recruit talented professionals willing to put in the hard work required to make it in construction.
6. As a female, do you feel you face barriers in your work?
No, I don’t. In general, Perlo’s company culture would not allow for that. But I also make a conscious effort to insert myself into conversations and to have my own voice. I don’t accept that I could be treated as ‘less’ than others because of my gender, and I don’t feel like I am. I know I have value to bring here, and others respect me for that.
I don’t take my role as a woman in construction lightly. As a mother of young daughters, I want women and girls to know we have a place in construction and so much to offer this industry.
7. What do you wish more people knew about working in the construction industry?
Our industry has a wide range of jobs – there’s a place for everyone! It’s amazing the extent of backgrounds and experiences that are accepted into this industry and apply very well to the work. I had no idea what I would do for a construction company. I’ve been here 8 years and now understand how I add value, but I can see where others might not know how they initially fit into a construction company. There are so many supporting departments – safety, marketing, accounting, project support, training, IT, and warehouse. There’s something for everyone – just reach out!
8. What advice do you have for individuals wanting to enter the construction industry?
Go for it. Be confident but humble, ask questions and be willing to learn. Find what motivates you, embrace challenges, be a good teammate, stay positive, stay hungry, and let your walls down, but stay true to yourself and be the best you can be. And lastly, don’t be afraid to get out on-site and get dirty! Maybe it’s cheesy . . . but it’s all true! Know your value and bring it with you every day.
9. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your career and/or work here at Perlo?
I’ve never found a work environment or culture as we have here at Perlo. I’m so proud of our team members. We do very challenging, hard work, but we have a genuine, fun, and collaborative culture that makes the stress of the job easier and enjoyable. We carry the burden together and celebrate together, which makes the challenges exciting and worthwhile. We celebrate our achievements and learn from our mistakes. I’ve never found or seen this kind of culture elsewhere, and I’m so proud to be a part of it and grateful for it.
We’d like to thank Meghan for taking the time to share her work and experience at Perlo and in the construction industry. If you’re interested in careers in construction, take a look at our Careers page for more information! If you’d like to check out more of our Women in Construction series, visit our Newsroom page.
At Perlo, our people are the secret to our success. Whether at a jobsite or in our office, you will find 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. In this article, we sit down with one of the biggest proponents of our core values and VP of Business Development, Todd Duwe.
With over 30 years in the construction industry, Todd shares his personal journey and influences, what working for Perlo means to him, and what he sees for the future in construction.
1. What is your role at Perlo?
My primary role is to bring in new construction projects through relationship building, developing strategies, and most importantly, leveraging our greatest resource…our people. Because I ran projects for over 20 years, I’m also able to engage with our project teams and clients to help bridge the gap from initial award to preconstruction.
I’m a big collaborator so project engagement, however minor, allows me to keep a pulse on the core of what our business does. It also helps keep me fulfilled.
2. How did you get started in construction?
2023 is my 30th year in the industry, so this question takes me back a bit. After graduating from Oregon State University, I joined a local architecture firm that specialized in healthcare design. While I was there, I worked up construction documents using AutoCAD, including everything from basic floor plans and building sections to specific details. After two years, I started my construction career with a local general contractor. My first project was the preconstruction and estimation of a seismic upgrade for a large hospital.
With my background in design and ability to efficiently interpret a set of documents, I was given a tremendous amount of responsibility early on. Because of this, I quickly fell in love with the industry.
3. What do you consider to be our most important “Perlo Practice” and why?
I really like Perlo Practice #1, “do what’s right.” In my mind, it is similar to the “Golden Rule” of treating others as one wants to be treated, which is a value my parents instilled in me. It can be applied to many different situations and is an overarching guiding principle that I use every day.
4. How do you see the industry evolving in the near future and what can Perlo do to adapt to these changes?
I believe future changes will revolve around managing supply chain issues, the labor force, and focusing on sustainability. Also, advancements in technology will always have an impact on construction as we’re constantly seeing innovative ways to complete and manage projects. The increased use of more environmentally friendly materials combined with building techniques, such as prefabrication and 3D printing is becoming a significant focus of the industry. We’re beginning to see how important these initiatives are to local jurisdictions and decisions that owners are making.
It takes good leadership to make the right decisions, and Perlo Construction has a leadership team that continuously reviews future trends and strategies to achieve greatness. In addition, we encourage all our people, no matter what position they’re in, to participate in making improvements to our business practices. This kind of “ground up” ingenuity is what will keep Perlo moving forward with innovative strategies and techniques for construction.
5.What is your pet peeve?
I’m a pretty easy-going guy, but if I had to choose something, it would be the lack of someone saying the two simple words: “Thank you”. It sounds so simple and yet it is forgotten far too often. Genuine, sincere appreciation can really help drive your co-workers to greatness. I value a culture of team building, respect, and hard work, and I like to see people appreciated for those efforts.
6. What do you like to do for fun?
My wife and I have three children ranging from a fourth grader to teenager, so we’re pretty busy with sports and school activities. When we get the chance, we like to travel and be active outdoors. Our favorite places to visit are Sunriver and Hawaii. I also love to golf.
7. What or who inspires you?
My wife inspires me. She is a registered nurse at a children’s hospital and takes care of the most critically ill kids and their families. When I think that I have had a bad day, and then listen to the stories she brings home from work . . . well, it puts things into perspective. Let’s just say she keeps me grounded – she is an angel.
8. What advice would you give to someone wanting to enter the construction industry?
Experience matters in construction, so take the time to learn the basics and build a good foundation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn from all the expertise around you. This is an exciting industry with many career avenues to choose from. If you work hard, build relationships, and do the right thing, then this industry will reward you.
9. How do you handle high-pressure situations or heavy workloads?
I am a believer of “cooler heads prevail.” When I was younger, I was part of a volunteer fire department and learned how to work swiftly while staying calm. When in doubt, always focus on the task at hand and do not lose your head.
10. Why Perlo? What makes us unique?
I have found that Perlo is made up of a lot of smart, yet humble, people. Combined with a hard work ethic, we have the ingredients that sustains an extraordinarily strong company as a force in the industry.
In addition to good recruiting and focusing on our core values, we are constantly seeking to better ourselves. For this reason, we will never be satisfied that we’ve found all the answers. It’s the journey that creates a culture of continuous improvement. That hunger is contagious, and when one idea doesn’t quite pan out, it may very well spur an idea from someone else that leads to an even better outcome.
I have appreciated how Perlo is able to communicate lessons learned. It takes being vulnerable to share the mistakes we have all made at one time or another, but we are all better off for it.
We’d like to thank Todd for sharing his thoughts with us about his career, lessons learned, and why the culture at Perlo keeps us highly ranked in the 100 Best companies to Work for in Oregon. If you’ve been considering a career in construction or are looking for a workplace that values your contributions not just to projects, but to the company as a whole, check out our Careers page to view open positions.
A pinch of this, a dash of that, a dollop here and a spoonful there. Every recipe has its measurements that create perfect dishes that are guaranteed to delight the palette and satisfy the soul. But, in every recipe, there is always that certain something that really makes it special.
As we prepare for another Thanksgiving holiday and plan our dinners with friends and family, we can’t help but think about what makes us special here at Perlo Construction. What is our secret ingredient?
It’s our people.
The extraordinary men and women who all bring their own individual flavors that, when they’re mixed, create a masterpiece! This Thanksgiving as we pile on the turkey with all the trimmings and enjoy a post-meal nap, we will remember that it’s not just the pumpkin pie, the stuffing or the cranberries that make the day complete. It is the special people sitting next to us that are that secret ingredient. Together, we’re whole.
This year, we wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday, and we are grateful for those that make Perlo the best General Contractor in the Pacific Northwest.
Sustaining our growth and future means investing in and mentoring the next generation of employees. We are excited to share the stories of our 2022 Summer Interns, nine students from six schools aspiring to enter the dynamic construction industry. We were blown away by their unique perspectives, go-getter attitudes and willingness to learn. Read on to hear about their summer internship experience.
Oregon State University
Construction Engineering Management
Levi worked primarily with our estimating department, learning preconstruction and the project bid process. Mainly working with mentor Senior Estimator Broc Van Vleet, Levi spent time recruiting subcontractors for bids, creating budgets and assisting with project estimates.
“I was surprised how upbeat everyone was here all summer; it was so cool. Of course, the work is stressful, but in such a great environment, the work was fun and motivating,” Levi expressed.
Our culture kept Levi engaged; he enjoyed building relationships, exploring different organizational methods, and learning new intercommunication skills. Levi’s takeaways were ongoing improvement of communication skills, particularly when additional direction or clarification is needed. Levi was surprised at how willing everyone was to dive in to help others, even when busy with their work.
“I thought I’d be filing papers and doing more intern-stigma-type work, but I was given real responsibility. I was willing to do whatever was asked of me, and I’d love to be an intern here again next summer.”
Peyton worked with our general construction team with mentor and Project Manager Josh Swake. He had the unique opportunity to work in the Perlo main office and on the job site with our field teams, pointing out that most of his peers in school weren’t afforded such diverse internship experiences with other companies.
Peyton was surprised at the role accounting plays in project management and how not all change orders and RFIs require full essays to communicate to owners.
Peyton said of his mentor, “Josh is super organized, is awesome and showed me the process. I felt lucky to learn from him- he’s a good teacher.” In addition, Peyton felt like he was genuinely participating in the project management process and contributing to the project.
“The culture is amazing. Perlo is just a cool, friendly, phenomenal place. I participated in all the culture events I could, like 3-on-3 basketball and trivia night; it was fun! I have never heard anyone talk negatively about Perlo. I made some good friendships and relationships.”
Washington State University
Central Washington University
Riley worked closely with all of our Special Projects Group (SPG) members, learning from each of them across the summer. She was surprised that she was given so much responsibility, learning to communicate effectively with subcontractors, write change orders, and document projects appropriately. With a willingness to jump in and do whatever was asked, Riley had the opportunity to participate in two hard-bid projects, numerous project meetings and more.
Riley said her favorite experience was “contributing to the bids; that’s where I feel I learned the most. It’s nice to be able to walk around and talk to people. The work can be stressful, but the culture here is so supportive. It’s an easy place to flourish and learn.”
“With my time in SPG I learned how important a paper trail is and how important it is for someone to be able to pick up right where you left off. I’ll take that tip with me everywhere I go.”
Spencer returned for his second summer internship working alongside Senior Project Manager Stephen Alger and Superintendent John Tompkins. He said his internship started fast and never slowed down, as the projects he assisted with were ever-evolving, providing many learning opportunities.
Of his mentors, Spencer said, “Stephen was busy but also available. John engaged me and wanted to help me learn. I absolutely loved seeing a concrete pour and being a part of it. I got to help process the rebar submittals and then saw the work I did come to fruition.” Additionally, Spencer helped with panel and embed layouts for a concrete tilt-up alongside John.
Spencer commented that Perlo’s internship program improved year over year, with a significant focus on ensuring the interns had a consistent community, continuous learning environment and immersion in the company.
“All of the feedback from last summer was taken and implemented, showing how even interns have a voice.”
Oregon State University
Construction Engineering Management
Working under Senior Project Manager Jacob Leighter, Zach worked in the office and on the field, expressing that he appreciated the office work more than he anticipated. He worked side by side with our project management teams and enjoyed the learning opportunities, including seeing concrete pours and panel tilts.
Zach said that Jacob was “intentional and precisely what you would want in a mentor” and was surprised about how much time was invested in him.
Coming to Perlo from a background as a firefighter, Zach was able to suggest resources for projects that drew on his past experiences. He expressed that people were still willing to listen when he didn’t feel he had a lot to offer. Zach said, “I learned how to take bad news and turn it into something positive or a benefit to Perlo and/or our client. Managing relationships is an art, and many people here do that well, so I’m glad to be able to listen in.”
“As an intern, I thought I’d be getting coffee for people. The culture here is so great. Everything is collaborative, so even when there are issues, a whole team is around to help. It was more of a learning environment than I ever expected.”
Aria worked primarily under Project Manager Forrest Gregg on the Vancouver Service Center project. A hands-on learner, she appreciated that so much of her work involved doing, not just watching. She learned a lot about effective communication and how to stay calm when tensions rise. “It surprised me how effective a simple phone call can be over an email.” She also noted that as the summer went on, she felt more and more comfortable speaking up and asking questions.
Aria’s learning included change proposals, billings, safety audits, meeting minutes and more. She enjoyed the onsite visits to see concrete pours and tilt panels.
“Forrest was a great teacher. I felt like he wanted to help me understand, and honestly, we learned together at times, and he was so humble and honest. He wanted me to learn.”
University of Arizona
Construction Engineering Management
Oregon State University
Construction Engineering Management
Caden worked primarily with Senior Project Manager Jordan Peterson. A ‘great fit’ as Caden’s mentor, Jordan quizzed and tested him regularly to keep him on his toes, helping him earn his learning instead of simply giving him the answers. He also noted that the internship surprised him. “I know people who have done CEM internships and heard many horror stories. I wasn’t expecting the culture aspect – it’s so positive! It feels like I am important here.”
With previous experience working as a laborer in the field, Caden said he enjoyed working in the office and liked it more than he thought he would. The relationships within the office while still having close interactions with the field were appealing to him.
“One of the main skills I learned was watching Jordan and Jean lead meetings, talk to owners, discuss the projects, etc. At school, you’re pushing to please the teacher to get the grade, but it’s nice to see the real-life side of things here at the office.”
Connor spent his summer working with Senior Project Manager Drew Carter, on various project types, including an elementary school, industrial projects, and several others. Connor noted that he’s generally shy but was encouraged by Perlo to open up, try new things and come out of his shell.
Connor spent time working with estimating and project management, completing take-offs, helping with punch list completion, change orders and more. He felt his mentor really trusted him to be involved in his projects, learn new things, and contribute. He noted that his prior experience included working for a restaurant and a shipping company, so this was a significant, positive change and eye-opening.
Connor, we’re so glad you joined us and look forward to seeing where your career heads from here!
“The atmosphere here makes it easy, even for someone shyer, to engage. Getting to be on the job site was great. I loved being able to talk to the subcontractors.”
Oregon State University
Oregon State University
Construction Engineering Management
Jimmy worked with many mentors this summer, including Senior Project Manager Jacob Leighter and Senior Estimator Broc Van Vleet, and across various project types. “The variety helped me compare projects, and it kept me on my toes all summer learning,” said Jimmy.
With time in the office, Jimmy learned the importance of effective communication via email and phone. Jimmy appreciated working with so many project managers to observe their work styles and project types. Some were more experienced, some less, and some more intense than others, and he liked all of that.
In addition, he appreciated the culture and the great perks like basketball games and the gym.
“I learned a lot about real-world business soft skills and getting comfortable on the phone. Jacob also helped me learn to diffuse tense conversations by being respectful and knowing when to loop in someone higher up.”
Perlo has created an internship program that is a two-way street, where both interns and employers have the opportunity to learn and grow. We are grateful for the time spent with the Summer Intern class of 2022, excited about their potential, and look forward to seeing each of them thrive in the construction industry.
If you’re interested in a future internship, watch our careers page or contact us today!
Companies in our business often grow and then sell to national or even international corporations. These large, sprawling businesses operate from distant headquarters and enter local towns with little investment in the people or the surrounding community. Gayland Looney and Jeff Perala, long-time owners of Perlo, wanted to make sure that would never happen. They realized the best way to keep the company local was to invite the Executive Team into the ownership fold.
These executives are:
“Creating the new ownership structure took many months,” says Gayland. “But we knew it was worth the effort. We wanted to make sure the long hours, the tough decisions, and the day-in-and-day-out grit that Jeff and I have put in over the past 30 years resulted in a company that would stay rooted in our community.”
Chris McLaughlin agrees. “The best thing about this transition is that it means we’re staying local. We’re not selling out to a company from outside the area.”
Digging into the Perlo Way.
Our culture and our legacy are what make Perlo, Perlo. As stated in the Perlo Way: We work hard, we take care of our people, and we always do what’s right.
Jeff Perala elaborates. “This transition is an exciting path to the future. We knew that bringing our executive leaders onto the ownership team was an important step for preserving what Gayland and I treasure most about what we’ve built.”
Putting People First.
Perlo is a place where employees work for years, sometimes even decades. Why? Because our people always come first.
“After working for a large, international construction company, I learned first-hand why it matters working for a company that’s truly invested in their employees,” explains Jeff Fisher. “Once I came on board with Perlo, I knew this was my home.”
“I’m so lucky to work at a place where some of my best friends are,” adds Chris McLaughlin. “I enjoy the work, but it’s the people I enjoy most.”
A Company Built on Relationships.
Perlo looks at every project as an opportunity to strengthen relationships with clients, partners, and co-workers.
“It’s exciting to see the types of projects we’re getting involved with,” says Jeff Fisher. “But at the end of the day, we’re in the business of building relationships.”
A Path to Continued Innovation.
The ownership expansion is the next chapter in the growth of the company. Perlo is becoming known in the industry for building state-of-the-art medical facilities and other complex projects. Clients and partners appreciate Perlo’s forward-looking approach that taps into new technologies and increased efficiencies.
“This ownership expansion allows for more ideas,” says Chris Gregg. “Perlo is about quality work, but it’s also about innovation. That’s what’s driving our growth.”
Staying ahead of the curve is good for business – and it’s also great for bringing in dynamic talent. “We’re growing, which provides good opportunities for our people,” shares Todd Duwe. “At Perlo, we encourage everyone to develop into their full potential.”
A Door to Tomorrow.
Perlo has been around for 50 years. The future looks bright for the next 50 years.
“This is exciting,” says Devin Koopman. “And now it’s our job to keep the dream alive for everyone in the company.”
Gayland adds, “What always drove us was creating a company that would stand the test of time and be a home for our people and their families. I’m just so proud of everyone who’s been a part of this journey.”
If you’ve been following along these last few weeks, you’ve already read the first three in our four-part Year in Review series for 2021. If you missed them, you can find them in our Newsroom here:
As the year officially comes to a close, today we’ll wrap up the last in our four-part series. We’ll celebrate and explore more about Perlo’s community involvement and accolades in 2021.
The Perlo Community in 2021
Here at Perlo, we work hard to maintain a positive, inclusive and fun culture for our people to be a part of. This includes giving back to our people, our community and our industry. The COVID-19 pandemic challenged us to find new and unique ways to maintain our award-winning company culture. Still, in 2021, we have done just that. In July, our office staff returned full time to the office, utilizing social distancing and mask policies to keep all of our workers safe. We have worked collectively to create a jovial atmosphere, amid a lot of hard work, through small group meetings, a book club, small gatherings for happy hours, and more.
In March of this year, we adapted our Fiscal Year-End celebration for 2020 for the COVID-19 pandemic to be a drive-through event. Employees drove through our parking lot and stopped at various stations to receive their annual performance bonuses, special treats and a yearbook. Among the year’s chaos, Perlo continued to hold internal company events. One of our most popular included the Perlo Turkey bowl, an outdoor flag football event held just before Thanksgiving.
In addition, 2021 at Perlo featured:
- Office employee block parties
- Jobsite tours for all staff members
- Christmas ornament and tree decorating
- Halloween Costume Party
- Office and Superintendent Holiday Luncheon
- Ugly Holiday Sweater Walk
Perlo Cares Program
This year, our Perlo Cares team members volunteered more than 336 philanthropy hours of time with 7 different organizations, including Store to Door, Adopt-a-road, The Angels in the Outfield, and more. Charitable giving of goods as well as sponsorships and direct donations are a large part of our philanthropic efforts each year. Some of our giving has included:
320 turkeys given out to employees and community groups before Thanksgiving
Over 400 coats and toys collected by Perlo and donated to The Angels in the Outfield Holiday Store
Loan of generators during the winter storm in February to power the Parrott Creek Ranch facility
We also made direct donations to:
Providence Health & Services Cancer Center
The Angels in the Outfield
Commercial Real Estate for Women (CREW)
National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC)
Parrott Creek Child & Family Services
Girls Inc of the Pacific NW
Oregon City Youth Sports
Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund
Lines for Life
Providence Children’s Health Foundation
Perlo has been on a growth trajectory for many years, and 2021 has been busier than ever. As we’ve grown, we have searched high and low to find the best talent to add to our team. So far this year, we have hired 37 new office staff or superintendents and 156 field crew members. We continue to seek additional candidates for project managers, project engineers, estimators and superintendents. If you’re interested in joining our team, check out our careers page and apply today!
2021 Company Accolades
We are proud to have achieved a variety of awards from industry groups this year, including multiple Development of the Year awards, the 100 Best Companies award, and more. Several individuals also received recognition, including:
Hard Hat Safety Award
Forty Under 40 Award
Director Strategic Initiatives
Phenoms & Icon Award
Sr. VP of Operations
Building Diversity Award
VP of Business Development
As a company, we are proud to have received the following awards:
- CAB, SIOR, NAIOP Development of the Year Runner-Up (Mahlum TI)
- CAB, SIOR, NAIOP Development of the Year Finalist (Columbia Distributing)
- CAB, SIOR, NAIOP Development of the Year Winner (Portland Meadows)
- CICP 2021 Law Enforcement Partner Award Winner
- DJC 2021 Top Project of the Year Winner (Columbia Distributing)
- DJC 2021 Oregon’s Reader Rankings Best General Contractor (Rank #1)
- Oregon Business’ 2021 100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon (Rank #8)
- Oregon Business’ 2021 100 Best Green Companies to Work for in Oregon (Winner)
- Oregonian 2021 Top Workplaces (Rank #7)
- PBJ 2021 Fastest Growing Private Companies (Rank #124)
- PBJ 2021 List of Middle Market Companies (Rank #8)
- PBJ 2021 Commercial Contractors List (Rank #15)
- PBJ 2021 Philanthropy Award (Rank #37)
- PBJ 2021 Healthiest Employers in Oregon 100-499 Employees (Top 15)
This year held its fair share of trials and tribulations. However, our people at Perlo succeeded in making it an incredible and memorable year by keeping culture and company growth at the top of our priorities. This year has set a new standard for success, and we look forward to 2022 and all it has to bring.
As we approach Thanksgiving 2021, we want to say to our clients, trade partners and employees: Thank you!
Thank you for a great year and for your partnership with Perlo. We wish you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, and as we continue into winter, a happy holiday season.
This week’s interview is with Amy Cook, one of Perlo’s Field Safety Coordinators. Amy began her construction career as a carpenter in the field and has a fascinating story to tell. Read on to learn more about her winding path into construction, the lessons she’s learned from it and the changes she’s seeing in the industry.
How did you get started in Construction?
I had been travelling and playing music for most of my twenties, and I was ready to settle down and find something more financially stable to do. I was an art curator, too, but those jobs were few and far between. I was approached by a friend that told me I should join the union and I thought being a carpenter would be a good job to retire in. At the time I was living in Hawaii and had a dream to build my own house there. That’s still a dream of mine, one day.
Anyway, my first job in construction was with a subcontracting firm and was the worst introduction a new participant could have. They put me on a 25’ staircase in a parking garage and was told ‘strip it’. I’d never even heard that term.
Additionally, no one talked to me about fall protection. Nothing was protecting me from the leading edge. My belt was on backwards and my tools were in the wrong pockets. Nobody wanted me on their jobsite. Nobody said anything to me. For three days, and I was trying to take wood off with the wrong tools. I thought ‘this is just a dangerous job’. The supervision was terrible, and the foreman wasn’t even around. The crews just did their own thing. And I didn’t know any better because I didn’t have any frame of reference about what it should be.
I wandered around that project and found the scaffold guys and they taught me a lot. I was there for about two months and then I moved to a different company to do rough framing and roofing. There was more training at that company. It was the first time anyone showed me anything about fall protection, ergonomics, etc. I didn’t go through any formal training at that time – I was waiting for the union to get me into their training program, so I was still a ‘carpenter helper’. But once I got on that project with that company, people seemed to really help me and care about me.
What kept you going in this career with that kind of an introduction?
At that second company, there was an old-timer that I followed around. He told me that if it had been 5 years sooner, he would have told me to get off his jobsite because I was a woman, but he told me he’d seen several women on jobsites and that they worked just as hard as the men. He showed me a lot of things about how to properly swing a hammer to be more efficient, etc. I really liked that.
Honestly, I really loved the work. I was in my late twenties and heading into my thirties. A lot of the guys around me had been doing it for 20+ years. I was excited to be learning something new and getting a consistent paycheck. I had a good attitude and sometimes brought treats. I wanted to bond with my coworkers. I loved getting paid to work out every day. That’s how I saw it. I loved the physical aspect of it and was in much better shape then. I did Taikwondo as a kid, and so I liked the physicality of it. I also had that dream of the house in Hawaii and that kept me going.
How has your career progressed from being a carpenter in the field?
I started with Perlo as a carpenter in the summer of 2019. In January 2020 I was interviewed for a position in the safety department as a Field Safety Coordinator. Honestly, I don’t know how I got this position! I went into that interview against some really experienced safety professionals. I decided my intention was to make them smile and laugh in the interview, and that is what I did. I had nothing to lose in that interview, because I loved what I was already doing as a carpenter. I did a mock safety audit and I just joked the whole time. I figured that if I just made everyone laugh, they would at least remember me!
So, how I got this role, I don’t know, but I so appreciate the opportunity. I couldn’t be working with a more supportive team and supervisor. I’m lucky to have gotten this position, with Perlo and the immediate team.
What are the differences between being a carpenter and the safety side of construction?
For most of the jobs I had as a carpenter, before Perlo, safety wasn’t a big priority. It wasn’t something that was held in high regard. We just did what we needed to do to get the job done. No one was really talking about safety until I moved over to Perlo.
Working on the safety side has been a totally different world. Just being in the office part time is different. I’m out in the field but also working from a computer about half the time. I appreciate the quality of life that this position has given me. My body isn’t totally dead at the end of the day – that work was so tiring. If someone’s been a carpenter for 25 years, they should get their pension – it’s a physically demanding job even if you use perfect ergonomics. But that’s why there’s good benefits: it’s hard work!
What do you do as Field Safety Coordinator?
I try to bridge the gap between safety and field personnel. It’s not about regurgitating OSHA standards and regulations – it’s about reminding each and every employee that they matter, and that going home in one piece is what safety is about. We want each person to go home safe and sound to their family. We are protecting the individuals and their families with our safety work.
So I help keep people safe. Some of what I do is to look people in the eye and ask how they’re doing before they step into the field, and make sure they are present and in good health before they go to work. At my current jobsite where I’m stationed each day, I’m doing a ‘move well’ program each morning, so I really do get the chance to be face to face with each worker in the mornings and help keep them safe.
Prior to my current role, I was roving from project to project. Each safety team member has a certain geographical jurisdiction. I did a lot of Portland and everything north of there. Sometimes we mix it up and ‘trade’ projects or walk projects together just to get fresh eyes on things. And we perform safety audits at each site. My credentials were minimal at first, so I spent time building relationships with people and asking questions, talking through any issues.
If an incident, close call or violation occurs, I always want to know how we got to a problem and then how to prevent that in the future. I don’t want to just solve the symptom; I want to find the root cause and then solve that.
We also organize our safety equipment, organize documents and data to track our progress. I’ve gotten massive support from Dennis (Safety Manager) and the rest of the team. You know, you can learn to speak Spanish from Rosetta Stone or you can move to Mexico and become fluent much faster. And that’s how I feel like I’ve learned about Safety, but with a huge support net.
Do you feel like you’ve been treated differently because you are a woman in construction?
In carpentry, I was absolutely treated differently. To some extent, anyways. It’s not as hard for me as it might be for others. I feel like I got in at a really good time, but I also think that the West Coast is way more forward-thinking and accepting than other states. For the most part, I see the industry course correcting and participating in the shift to improve safety and attitudes – even the old timers. Which makes those who don’t want to participate stand out even more.
When the guys were ‘messing’ with me, I actually felt like I was accepted. That said, there’s a line between jovial and harassment, but I did have to report a couple of people for harassment. No one touched me or anything, but there was some weird behavior that I had to report. But I learned from that – I’m still a female in this industry and need to make sure I’m not putting myself in a position where I’m alone on a jobsite. I mean, I wouldn’t put a man alone on a jobsite, either. That’s just not safe. If there’s an accident, someone needs to be able to call 9-1-1.
Because I’m a safety professional, I do talk to women on jobsites and act as an advocate for them. I check into their scope of work, and let them know that we have zero tolerance for any kind of bullying, hazing, harassment, etc. There’s kind of an alliance because there’s so few women onsite. We see each other and support each other.
The sisterhood in the brotherhood union is crucial. I’m still involved in meetings with the union and attending the Tradeswomen ‘Build Nations’ event. I’ve learned a lot through the women onsite. There are real stories from women we need to capture to be sure we can mitigate hazards before they happen, and find ways to educate men onsite, too. Because of what I saw as a union carpenter, I feel guided to protect minorities no matter their gender. I feel deeply guided to do my due diligence.
Is it correct to assume you’re seeing a structural behavior change in terms of safety and how people treated onsite?
Yes. Absolutely. I haven’t been in this industry as long as many, but there’s a huge effort underway to improve behavior on jobsites. If I see harassment, I’m going to do something about it. All of the safety professionals play a role in preventing poor behavior. Some ‘old timers’ don’t like the idea of safety, but you know what? They don’t have a choice. I am here to be a resource for people and build relationships.
For the most part, everyone has been incredibly welcoming. The superintendents are on board, and we truly do work together, which is a really special relationship. No one learns from being criticized all day long. We’re here to learn and improve and keep people safe and whole.
How would you recommend people get started in this industry?
Becoming a carpenter is sort of like running through burning hoops – you have to find a job first and then join the union. But if possible, I’d try to find a way to join the union first and then get to work.
I wouldn’t recommend getting a safety position if you have zero experience working in the field. Even though you can memorize rules and regulations, the experience you get from working onsite is not replaceable with book learning. The biggest advantage I have as a safety professional is that I know what the folks in the field are experiencing. I know what it’s like to be in a muddy ditch or dealing with snow/rain, etc. It’s hard work and I don’t need to be barking at people. If someone forgets their hardhat, I go grab it and give it to them. You know – you don’t have to yell.
I recommend being motivated – you have to find that within yourself. If you’re in high school, there are Career Technical Education (CTE) programs that you can get involved in, so take those, and learn about the trades. There are also organizations like Girls Build, where younger girls can gain experience with STEM careers. Just get involved with your community – get to know the people in it, ask questions. There are apprenticeships for most trades, and the classes that are offered through those are priceless. Welding, carpentry, laborers, etc. Get involved and start caring about your future.
Do you still have your Hawaii dream?
I do, but it’s slow-paced living out there and it’s nice to have a steady paycheck for now. I’ve broadened my horizons a bit. I would like to find a way to teach martial arts to kids and do exhibitions, etc. My dream would be to have land somewhere and have all the local kids come out, be safe, learn, play. I want them to learn how to protect themselves. I couldn’t afford a lot when I was a kid, so I want kids to be able to have better opportunities and not have to pay for them.
Amy, thank you for sharing your story with us. We are proud to have you on our team! If you’re looking for new career opportunities, check out our Careers page now.
This week we’re taking a look at another fabulous woman in construction, our own Payroll Manager, Jacki Williams. Jacki has been with Perlo for over 20 years and does more than ‘just payroll’. She is truly a force in our company that keeps the wheels turning every day. Jacki is one of our hardest working people, with extensive knowledge about accounting and a go-to person for a variety of questions. Day in and day out, Jacki is as reliable as they come and dedicated to her work, but you won’t hear her boast. Jacki is humble and hard-working and we would no doubt be lost without her.
Let’s learn a little more about her time in the construction industry.
What do you do for Perlo?
My title is Payroll Manager and I do all the payroll for the entire company, with help from Becky in Accounts Payable. I do a lot of things, though. I also help with month-end closing, bank statements, quarterly taxes, W-2’s, and unemployment claims. All things accounting, basically.
Since COVID started there’s only been three of us from accounting physically in the office full time, so I’ve had to relearn some of the basic AP functions like cutting checks and stuff. I’ve actually enjoyed that- it was a bit of a breath of fresh air to have that change. The process has changed a lot since I was on the accounting payable and receivable side of things.
I used to do all the owner billings and as Perlo has grown, the company has added more staff to handle that, so I’m a little more specialized. I’ve done almost every accounting function except controller in my time.
Would you say it’s been a rewarding career?
Yes. 100%. I’ve had so many opportunities here and trusted me with a lot of things, and I appreciate that.
How did you get into construction?
My first job out of college was in construction accounting. I was in eastern South Dakota at the time and started with a family run business – a very small contractor that built apartments and churches. That was my first job, but I went into retail, manufacturing and worked at the Navy Exchange in Long Beach, California in accounting support rolls before I came to Perlo.
I went to college for accounting, and after a few classes in auditing, knew I didn’t want to do public accounting. I wanted to go into the private sector, and construction happened to be where I got my first job offer.
We moved to Oregon in 1999 when my husband, Dan, retired from the Navy. We had been in San Diego prior to that, where I worked for a manufacturing company. It was then that I started with McCormack Pacific, which was Perlo’s name back then. They had posted an ad in the paper for a job opening – this was before the internet, of course. They interviewed me on a Friday, and the following Monday I interviewed with the owner at the time, Bill McCormack, and I started the next day. And I’ve been here ever since!
What do you like about working in construction?
In my world, I do a lot of the same things every day, but it’s very detailed and a little different than accounting in other industries. It’s fun because we’re always building different things all the time. And I feel like I’m a part of the whole process, it takes everybody to get buildings constructed. It’s really awesome to see the different types of projects we’re working on and see the excitement people have for their work. When we win a new project, there’s a company email that goes out called ‘Ring the Bell’ and we find out what we’re working on. That’s always exciting.
When I worked in manufacturing, we sold abrasives, and we never saw the customers. It was very impersonal. At least with construction, we’re a little more face to face with the owners. We get to see them and how excited they are, and we can drive by buildings that the company built and have pride in seeing that. It’s a little more tangible than other industries.
What are the challenges of working in construction?
I have been at Perlo since 1999, so a lot has changed at the company and with the construction industry. Over time, Perlo has worked hard to get the right people and procedures in place to get through anything. We have so many tools at our disposal now and can accomplish a lot more now than we did then. When I first started out of college, we didn’t even have computers. We did everything by hand. It makes me appreciate what we have now.
I’ve worked at companies where money was an issue and we didn’t have enough money to pay all our bills, which was a huge challenge. Thankfully, we haven’t had that happen in my time here at Perlo. I try to look at the company’s money as if it’s coming out of my own pocket. For instance, if I can buy candy that’s on sale for the community candy jar, I will. You never know when we might need that $4 I saved sometime down the road. You have to be prepared to work hard and not be afraid of that. I’ve been in the industry through great economic times and really crummy economic times, and we really had to knuckle down and work through it and eventually we came through it.
Do you feel like you’ve had any obstacles as a woman in construction?
Not in my role. The accounting roles in construction have always been female, typically.
What changes have you seen in the industry since you’ve started?
Technology has increased significantly. Having computers is huge. We used to use the ‘pegboard’ system with carbon paper and we had to transfer everything by hand. When I was first in construction, we only had seven phases where the labor and materials got charged. So that was easy, but it basically had to be because of the paper processes. By comparison, we have hundreds of phases now. Technology is great, but there was value to doing things by hand, because once you’ve done the process in the ‘old school’ way, doing it with a computer is easy.
Perlo has been really good at investing in technology upgrades and helping people make their jobs easier. The software changes have been great. Like today, we have a meeting to make documentation distribution even more automatic. While it’s a small thing, it will reduce my workload by at least an hour each week, and when you add up several small improvements, it’s a big time savings. I don’t worry about technology taking over my job. There’s still plenty of items that require using your brain, and a computer won’t replace that.
What are some of your favorite memories from working here?
That’s a tough one. Moving into this building two years ago was really cool. It provided such a nice atmosphere. I always enjoyed the company picnics. Pat (now retired receptionist) and I used to shop for all the door prizes and that was always fun. I liked doing that. Don Wheeler (now retired Superintendent) and Devin Koopman (Vice President of Construction) would put together all kinds of games. It was a good time.
The company gives us tickets to the blazer games, and that’s always fun. There’s always so many opportunities here. One time, Gayland Looney (current owner) gave me tickets to the Seahawks verses Packers game. The Packers are my favorite football team, and that was really awesome.
We tend to do some great parties for year-end and I always enjoy those. We’ve done a cruise on the Willamette, and a bowling event, and we did a dinner and dance with a live band at Portland Golf Club one year. Seeing Chris McInroe (Project Director) break dance was amazing. I loved that. For the most part, coming to work is always a good day. It’s happy for me.
Any advice for those interested in construction accounting?
Be flexible and be able to multi-task. You have to want to work hard. At Perlo, we work hard and play hard, but it’s important that you work hard and you will be rewarded if you do. If you like numbers, construction is a good place to be. That said, construction is a cyclical economic business, it does encounter hard times. You have to be ready for that. Overall, it’s a rewarding industry and you get to learn about a lot of things. I have learned a lot of construction jargon working here, which makes it a little more exciting.
Any final thoughts you want to share?
Many people think accounting is boring, but I enjoy it. I wouldn’t want to be a project manager, there’s too much stress involved in that. I admire the folks who can do that job. The jobs that project managers and superintendents do are harder than what I do, and I have a lot of respect for them. They’re responsible for a building, I’m responsible for getting people paid. It takes all of us.
Thank you, Jacki, for sharing your story with us! You are invaluable to us and are appreciated every day.
2020, in short, has been a tough year. For our communities, for our country, for our globe. The world over, we have been forced to make significant adjustments to our lives and businesses, have said goodbye to loved ones and worried about our health and wellness more than ever before. Now that we are on the tail end of the year, we find ourselves operating in an ever-changing manner that nevertheless feels like a new ‘normal’.
In spite of the challenges, there is a lot to be grateful for, and this Thanksgiving, our thankfulness is what we want to set our sights on.
Here at Perlo, we are eternally grateful for our awesome crew. Individuals, certainly, but individuals who work together as a team. And this year, we have done so in a in a whole new way. We want to say how grateful we are for all of our people. Cliché as it may sound, ‘teamwork makes the dream work’, and this team goes above and beyond to keep Perlo moving, growing, and successfully delivering projects. Thank you, Perlo people! You are the heart of our organization.
Now join us, as we discover what each of our people are grateful for this year.
As we close out the year, we want to send a warm thank you to our clients, our subcontractors, and our design partners. Thank you to our employees and the craft workers that keep our jobsites running. Thank you to those family members that support our workers. Thank you to our community for keeping supplies coming, restaurants open, and doing your part to make our world a better place.
May you find peace this Thanksgiving.
At the heart of every project we do is a commitment to getting it done right. We take the time to listen closely and we follow through on each and every detail — every time. Superintendents carry these values on and off the field to ensure projects are constructed correctly, timely and safely. They must have open and honest communication with all project stakeholders from the design team and management to the field crews, local jurisdictions and third party inspectors, and everyone in between. True builders, the knowledge you will find in the minds of a great construction superintendent is vast and invaluable.
This week we are diving into a discussion with three of Perlo Construction’s veteran superintendents, Jay Edgar, Gary Lundervold and Fred Lutz. Each of them took a slightly different path into their current roles, and one thing is clear – they love what they do. Read on to learn more about what it takes to be some of the best superintendents in the industry.
How did you become a superintendent?
I started out building houses and doing carpentry work for about three years with my dad, and then we realized it was hard to make money, so we started doing commercial work. I ended up as a journeyman carpenter with McCormack Pacific. Later I became a foreman for Tim Kofstad. After 10 or so years, they kept asking me to move up. I didn’t want to, but they kept asking me to, so I finally became a superintendent.
I was going to college for a different career path. In the summer I went to work for a construction company in California and ended up with some life events that changed my career path, so I went to work for a carpenter, joined the union, and started running work as a carpenter, then as lead man, and then I changed companies and went to work as a carpenter/foreman. I never had any formal training on reading blueprints, I just picked it up over time. I worked for a union company. I was doing small jobs then. I moved to another company and was moved up pretty quickly. In the 90’s I became a superintendent. I’ve been with Perlo as a superintendent since June 2005.
My path isn’t how they do it anymore. When I started, it was 1980, I was 20 years old and had just started working with this company. I started by working with an older carpenter, so I learned and did whatever he told me to do. It was a different time back then, so my first project was to build a small tilt up as a superintendent right after that. At the same time, I took some classes to learn to read blueprints. My second job was to build a 130-unit retirement home and that was REALLY like being thrown into the wolves. I was 24 when I ran my first job and had to learn very quickly how to get people to listen to me and get their work done. And my career has evolved from there. I basically went from a union laborer to a superintendent at a very young age. No one would do that anymore.
What skills does a great superintendent need?
Communication. That’s number one. Of course, you need to know how to build things, and you have to be able to plan out your project in your head months in advance to do it right. But communication is a big one, and making sure the work is done safely.
You have to have some common sense, know how to do math, read blueprints and schedule the work. Mostly, though, you have to have a passion for the work. If you care about what you’re doing, can think through all aspects of the job and combine that with a lot of common sense, you’ll be alright.
You need communication skills and computer skills. You have to be willing to learn from others and take pride in your work. Learn from your mistakes and have follow through.
What path should a future superintendent follow?
Work your way up. Start in the field and learn how to build things. You can also find classes. Joining the union will help you educate yourself, and of course you’ll need basic computer skills. Nothing replaces hands on experience, though. The typical path is to become a laborer or carpenter, then a lead carpenter, then foreman and after that, superintendent.
Work your way up the ladder. If you work hard and care about what you’re doing, you can do what we do.
Join the carpenter’s union and work your way up. You must have a great work ethic and starting at the bottom and getting as much training as you can is what you will need.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Completing a project and seeing that it was done well. Also, doing it without any injuries to the crews. That’s huge.
You start with a piece of ground and finish each project with a complete building – that’s an accomplishment each time and it’s a great feeling when you can turn it over to happy owners. I take a lot of pride in what I’m doing, I enjoy being with the field crews and organizing the work. Even when it’s organized chaos, I love it.
The owner’s reaction at the end of a job is the most rewarding thing. We want to make them happy with our finished product, and that’s what I get to do. As I drive around town, I see a lot of buildings that I helped to build. These places will exist for a long while, and I get to contribute to making each building of a quality high enough to make it last for lifetimes.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The whole thing! I’m kidding. Getting the project started right and the base structure out of the ground is the hardest part of it. If you get that piece right, the rest is easy in comparison. I have to know how every piece of the building fits together so that it gets done right, and mistakes cost both time and money, so getting that first part right is the most important thing.
Scheduling. We are managing a lot of people from different companies all the time, so making sure that everything is scheduled in advance and that you can make decisions on the fly when necessary can be a challenge. You can’t control the weather – hard as you might try – we have to be flexible and adjust, too. Lately it seems that everyone wants things built faster and faster, so we’re doing the same amount of work in less time. That’s a big challenge.
The biggest challenge is building the whole thing in your head before you ever start. You have to be able to visualize what you’re about to build so that you can plan everything just right. Also, you have to motivate people every day, and that can be a challenge. You can’t give more than 100% even though you want to. So having good relationships, communicating and planning so that we can work through the schedule is a challenge that you have to be ready to meet.
Do you ever wish you worked out of the office instead of the field?
Never. I’m not an office person. I like being out on the jobsites, getting outdoors and hands on.
No. Some people like the office, but it’s not for me.
Not a chance. We get a change of scenery every time we move to a new site and we see new things each day. I love that part of it, and I like knowing what’s going on each day on the sites.
What would you want people to know about your job?
I’d want them to know that I’m going to be professional, do what I say I’m going to do, and get work done. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years in this industry and that’s because I stick to my word. Also, I’d want people to know that they can’t let technology and emails be the only way to communicate. You build trust and better commitment from people when you pick up the phone or talk to them in person, so make sure you are doing that more than relying on an email.
It’s hard to understand what we do in the field unless you get to see it. It’s a lot of organizing of people and materials. If you get the chance to see what we do, you should take it.
It’s a lot of hard work. You have a lot of things to worry about and can’t just leave all that behind when you go home. At least I never could.
Where do you see the industry going in the future?
Good question. I see it being harder to build because of increased regulations and safety protocols. That’s not to say those are bad things, they are good things, but it does present more challenges. I also see more technology coming in to how we operate.
I think it’s going to be harder to get crews to work in the field, even though it’s a rewarding career. I see more technology coming into how we communicate and build things. It’s changing all the time.
I see technology increasing and pre-fabrication becoming more common. Because the industry is changing so rapidly and people want buildings delivered at an increasingly fast pace, we will be forced to innovate. But I think my job is all about quality, so I try to make sure people understand that going faster is sometimes at the expense of quality, and I hope people don’t lose sight of that. I worry that craftsmanship is going to get lost.
We want to say thank you to Fred, Gary and Jay for taking the time to share their stories with us! We are grateful to all of our superintendents for their work each day to deliver quality projects. As always, if you are interested in working with or working for Perlo, give us a call or visit the links below.
Work for Perlo—view career opportunities here. Work with Perlo—contact us.
Kathleen Buono is one of Perlo’s powerhouse Project Managers. As the child of a real estate developer, Kathleen was exposed to the real estate industry from a young age, but her path to Perlo and construction project management wasn’t a straight path. We took some time to sit down and find out more about her story.
Tell us how you got into construction and what you did prior to this career?
I was a commercial real estate appraiser for 18 years prior to working for Perlo, and I actually have a degree in History. Well into my appraisal career, I was looking for a change, but it was during the last recession, so I stayed longer than I wanted to.
I started doing informational interviews with people I trusted about what their jobs were like to figure out what I could do next. I started looking at finance, business, property management, and real estate development. Over drinks at a baby shower for a fellow CREW (Commercial Real Estate for Women) member, I got to talking with Elissa Looney about what she does in construction, and she said she’d be happy to talk to me. We met up for coffee and talked about skillsets for project managers and there were a lot of overlaps there. A few months later she called me and offered me a job at Perlo.
How were you initially exposed to real estate?
My Dad retired as Vice President of PacTrust, a local real estate trust and developer, so I had been exposed to real estate a bit as a kid. I got pictures of the whole process because PacTrust did both development and management, from permitting and planning, construction and the ongoing property management, so I learned a lot about all of those things over the years.
The real estate appraisal company that I worked for previously was owned by one of our neighbors – I babysat his kids growing up – and I had done an informational interview with him. It was a very male dominated field, and he recommended I interview a woman in the field before committing to it. So that’s what I did and ended up pursuing that as my first career.
What was it like changing careers midstream?
I thought it would be a lot scarier than it was. I didn’t do it for so long because I felt like what I did as an appraiser was very specific and that the skill set wouldn’t apply to other careers. When you are mired in what you do on a daily basis, it’s hard to know that the soft skills that make you good at what you do can apply to other things. It took me awhile to figure out that those skills were transferable and I didn’t have to be a bean counter for the rest of my life. The informational interview process made it less scary. And then of course, Perlo being an opening and welcoming environment made it less scary, as well.
Tell us about your position at Perlo.
I’m a Project Manager in our Special Projects Group (SPG), and that group has morphed pretty substantially since I’ve been here. When I started it was more about repairs and maintenance type work for past clients, and now we’re very integral with our interior tenant improvements (TI’s), both large and small. I still handle the small maintenance items for our longtime clients, doing things like taking out a door and sidelite or helping them with concrete repairs. At the same time I’m running a $500,000 build out with new dock pits and levelers and adding offices and conference rooms in an existing industrial building.
My job requires a lot of time management – that’s integral to project management. Especially TI’s, which have a short timeline. You have to be able to structure your day and still be able to respond quickly as things change.
What do you like about project management?
The best thing about what I do is seeing people get really excited and happy as their projects come together. A lot of people can’t visualize what things will be when it’s just drawings on paper, but as we build it, people get excited about it. It’s hugely rewarding to provide that kind of service to people.
I like that the projects change and the challenges that come with that. Even with different TI’s in the same building, each one has its own challenges. Sometimes achieving a short schedule is most important, but the person next door might think a certain feature is most important.
There’s always the challenge of finding the best way to repair things in a creative way that will provide the result that the client wants and longevity of the repairs. I like the short term quality of SPG. Our TI’s aren’t typically longer than three months, and some projects are even just a day or two. So it’s always changing, it’s never the same day twice.
What do you find particularly challenging about project management?
Clients tend to delay what they knew they needed, and so time is exceedingly critical, and everybody wants their work done yesterday. It can be stressful to try to convey realistic expectations – sometimes I feel like I’m saying no too often. Time is not our friend.
What skills are required to be successful?
You need to be detail oriented, organized, a self-starter, and resourceful. You need to have an innate sense of curiosity combined with resourcefulness. You have to be able to find information for yourself and know when to ask questions. You have to be independent, and a resourceful researcher to find the answers that you need, whether that’s from Google or our company server or another PM, architect, etc. And staying diligent about finding the answers you need until you determine the right answer.
What has been your most challenging project to date?
Probably a tie between the VLMK building renovation and the Tuality OR remodels. Both were complex projects. On VLMK, even the manufacturer of the tectum tiles that we needed to replace hadn’t seen it used in the manner that existed on this building. And the OR’s because time was such a factor. We had three weeks to completely gut and remodel two OR’s in an active hospital, and that was challenging.
Do you find that being a woman in construction presents particular challenges?
I think on rare occasions, but less so now. I felt like when I was newer to the industry, men might have assumed that I didn’t know enough to do the job. But very quickly, that became a non-issue. I do think you have to be a particular type of woman to work in construction because it’s so male dominated.
Where do you see the industry heading in the next 5 – 10 years?
Certainly we are becoming more digitized. All of our plans and processes are digital, nothing is paper any longer. The integration of technology like Building Information Modeling (BIM) is going to infiltrate construction even more. Reliance and implementation of technology, reliance on IT professionals is going to be required to be a larger contractor.
On the 5 year horizon, I see continued strength in the industrial market, particularly the distribution side with the growth of online shopping during COVID-19. I think adaptive reuse of office buildings will be coming as people realize that remote working is effective, but I don’t think that will be as big a deal on the 10 year horizon as it will be in the near term. Employees will start asking to be a part of company culture again.
What advice do you have for someone who might want to pursue project management?
The informational interviews I did were integral to figuring out what I wanted to do. I looked at a lot of roles in the commercial real estate sector and construction project management was by far more interesting to me than most other positions that I looked into. I do think development would be interesting, though. So my advice is to do lots of interviews. Find out what their everyday is like, what the skillsets you need are and think critically about whether you like those. You have to like a fast changing world and uncertainty in construction.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Perlo’s a great place to work. It’s a wonderful company to work for. There’s a reason we’ve been in top workplaces and 100 best companies for multiple years in a row.
Thank you, Kathleen, for taking the time to share your story with us!
Read more about Women in Construction in our Newsroom.
This week, we are joining in the industry wide effort to raise awareness and share best practices for increasing safe work practices through Construction Safety Week. From September 14 – 18, construction companies across the nation will engage in conversations about best practices, creating cultures that embrace safety, and striving for zero workplace injuries across all disciplines.
The topic of safety in construction is a big one, and for good reason. There continue to be too many onsite accidents that lead to musculoskeletal disorders, chronic health issues, severe injuries and even death. Worker fatalities still happen at a rate of more than 14 deaths per day across the country, with many more non-fatal injuries each year.
We are long past time that safety be a priority for every individual on all construction sites.
The good news is that many resources exist to help individuals and companies improve their safety programs. Today, we will explore some of the many options available for both individuals and companies to utilize to increase awareness and training as it relates to safety in construction.
Perhaps the most well-known governmental entity that works to provide training is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Commonly referred to as OSHA, their construction industry web pages include assistance and guidance to help identify, reduce and eliminate construction-related hazards.
In addition to the national OSHA assistance, there are typically state agencies such as Oregon OSHA and Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Both of these agencies offer consultations for businesses in their respective states.
Several colleges and universities offer degree programs in health and safety. If you’re interested in pursuing a degree to become a safety professional, OSHA has a list of the colleges and universities, searchable by degree type from certificates to doctorates. You can find this searchable database here. Some of the programs are offered by institutions such as:
• Northern Illinois University
• University of Cincinnati
• Rochester Institute of Technology OSHA Education Center
• Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center University of Washington
• University of South Florida
Third Party Consultation
Many third party consultants exist to help companies improve their internal safety programs. These companies can offer one-on-one help and insight, as well as onsite training and inspections. Here are just a few in the Pacific Northwest:
• GEW, LLC
• Safety Northwest, LLC
• Columbia Industrial Training & Education, LLC
Many vendors that rent or sell safety equipment offer training services either online or onsite. Here are a few of them:
• United Rentals
Other Educational Sources
Of course, some less formal training resources exist on the internet. Safety Talk Ideas help provide discussion points for safety professionals to use when speaking to crew workers. There are also great examples of employee safety training available online, such as Oregon State University, Portland State University and Washington State University.
There are also safety conferences for added education. One example is the Washington State, Governor’s Industrial Health and Safety Conference. This conference is all virtual this year and runs September 21 – 25, 2020.
In addition to these, some topics that are less directly related to construction activities and more related to mental health. 2020 has brought us plenty of challenges, but there has been a mental health crisis for many years in our country, and efforts need to be made to combat these concerns, as well. Perlo has put a new focus on helping employees through this time, and the industry as a whole is taking note of the challenges that people are facing with regards to this issue, as well.
It’s important that employers provide training and support for those who may be struggling with mental health challenges. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides a myriad of resources to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. You can also call 1-800-723-8255.
Many health insurance providers will also have resources available for employers and employees, and we encourage you to ask about those services.
Perlo’s Safety Program
Perlo is dedicated to our safety program and is continuously evolving its practices so we can improve. We employ a full-time safety manager, assistant safety manager, and four field safety coordinators. All projects are visited on a regular basis by our safety team members. A unique site-specific safety plan and job hazard analyses is created by the project management team and safety manager prior to construction activities. We also align all of our efforts to our Perlo Practices.
Continuing education for superintendents and site management staff is considered and delivered prior to each project. The safety manager utilizes weekly Toolbox Talks to emphasize safe work practices and ensures all superintendents are certified in OSHA-10 and/or 30, CPR, first aid and AED.
Superintendents are trained to the competent person level in fall protection, trenching and excavation, scaffolding, and in the management of crystalline silica. Each workday begins with a daily huddle to emphasize safe work practices, issue work assignments, and coordinate work activities.
The ultimate responsibility for each job site lies with each superintendent, who are on-site during all working hours, and set up employees for success every day by providing the right tools, training and safeguarding the public from any construction activities we’re performing.
Safety on construction sites is our number one priority, and as we join the industry in celebrating Safety in Construction Week, we hope that the resources listed above will help others with improving their safety programs, too.
Be well. Be safe. Stay healthy. Join us this week, increasing the awareness of safety in construction, for yourself, and your fellow workers.
Prior to Tuesday September 5, 1882, a typical workday for the average American construction worker lasted 12 hours and the work week extended the entire seven days. Thanks to the collective opinion of a multitude of voices brave enough to put their foot down, the tradition of a national “day off” was formed for all American workers. It was also discovered that allowing more time away from their job provided more time for them to spend the money they earned. As individuals worked less hours, the economy grew.
It’s a split decision over who founded the national holiday. A large portion of the population believe it was Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. Others attribute it to machinist, Mathew Maguire. Though disagreement remains on the origin of the holiday, it is a widely known fact that our very own home state of Oregon approved the state bill into law on February 21, 1887, becoming the very first state to do so. More states followed suit, until finally, on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September a legal holiday in honor of the American worker.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, Labor Day “is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”
This yearly national tribute was originally planned to include a parade, followed by a festival, and complete with speeches from prominent members of society. Though these initial plans have changed over the past 130 years, it still remains a celebrated day of rest, a day of play, a time to take a breath and enjoy the world around you outside of the demands of work. The entire work force may not be able to cease working for this day, yet it’s important to recognize and be grateful for each person’s contribution to the community and our nation as a whole.
Our country’s workers pride themselves on achievement, results and working hard. They give their all and often have little time for themselves. “Work hard, play hard” often means “Work hard, play if you can find the time”.
In order to maintain optimum efficacy in the workplace, our workers need to be tending to their mental and emotional health. Working hard is important, but so is rest.
This Labor Day, Perlo would like to extend a giant thank you to our employees. The talent we have includes a variety of trades and skills, and our people are, without question, the best in the industry. We appreciate the work you do each day, the buildings you help build, the communities you foster and the economy you support.
Be safe, be healthy, enjoy your time with family this weekend. And know that we salute you!
In recent decades, safety in the construction industry has risen to the forefront as a high priority for contractors, labor unions and project owners. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), construction fatalities still make up nearly 1 in 5 worker deaths for private sector workers, mostly attributed to falls, being struck by an object, electrocution and caught-in/between incidents. While worker injuries and illnesses are down significantly in the last 50 years, the industry still has work to do to eliminate injuries and deaths on jobsites.
Here at Perlo, we have developed a series of practices – known as the Perlo Practices – that we strive to represent each and every day. If we work in ways that are consistent with these practices as they relate to safety, we will continue to see rates of injuries decline. It is our goal that all our people go home each day as healthy as they came, without strains, sprains, abrasions or worse. Here we explore just how each of these practices relate to construction safety.
The right thing to do, every day, is to operate in a safe manner. This means empowering every person onsite to speak up and take action if they see unsafe work practices. It means operating safely even when you’re alone and no one is looking over your shoulder. It means taking the long way to complete a task if the short way cannot be accomplished without risking injury, or worse. The right thing to do is whatever it takes to ensure worker safety, for the smallest and the largest of tasks.
During his preconstruction review, a project Superintendent recognizes a large skylight opening presents a significant fall risk. Permanent fall protection anchors were not included in the original scope. The superintendent takes it upon himself to champion the installation of permanent fall protection anchors for not only the safety of his crewmembers, but for the safety of the client post-construction.
Prior to any task being completed, the aspect of safety must be considered. Ideally, solutions to any problems are found prior to beginning any assignment. If a problem is encountered while working, stop the work and take the time to find a solution that does not compromise the health and well-being of the workers onsite. Pre-task planning and consultations with competent persons and/or safety professionals are both ways to find reasonable solutions. Once solutions are identified, it is also important to share these with your co-workers, the company and the industry at large.
A worker is using a lift to install siding on a building. Suddenly the worker finds that they can’t reach the edge of the board and is tempted to reach beyond the limits of the lift. Instead of risking a fall, stop the work, take the time to move the lift. While this may add a few minutes to the task, the time taken is nothing compared to the worker sustaining a severe injury or death.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. Every person on a jobsite is empowered to take action by either correcting it yourself or reporting to a competent person who can correct the unsafe practice. Safety applies to Perlo employees as well as the subcontractors we work with. Everyone plays a role in keeping jobsites safe, so that each individual can make it home safely.
While climbing a stair tower, an employee encounters a discarded water bottle on the landing that could pose as a trip/fall hazard. Instead of walking past, the worker picks up the water bottle, thus removing the hazard, and disposes of it in the garbage.
Quite simply, if you see something, say something. Always. Everyone has a responsibility to speak up when you see a hazard, a near miss, etc. Speak up immediately so the unsafe practice can be remedied. If you wait, you might be too late to prevent injury or death of one of your coworkers. There is no shame in reporting unsafe circumstances.
A Perlo employee sees a subcontractor utilizing a ladder that is too short. The stretch to reach could lead to a fall. Point out to that worker that they need to find an appropriately sized ladder for that task. A simple, ‘hey, I care about your safety. Please use a taller ladder’ is all you might need to make sure that worker goes home safely that day.
Safety is ever evolving and is not always black and white. The ways we operated ten years ago may be quite different than the ways we operate today. Sometimes there are situations that don’t fall within a standard or the standard doesn’t accurately depict the scenario, which forces us to get creative with solutions. Regardless, even if the path isn’t straight, we must seek the answer that does not endanger workers. Our path should always lead to the safe return of our people at the end of each workday.
While working on an elevated surface, an employee recognizes the fall protection available to her won’t allow continuous 100% fall protection to access the work area. Instead of disconnecting her fall protection system, the worker contacts her supervisor to devise a plan which will allow for continuous protection.
Always be looking for new, better ways to complete projects. If efficiencies can be found or safer ways to complete a task are discovered, report your findings. As a group, we can also investigate or create tools that can make work tasks safer. If we are always looking for ways to enhance how we operate, we will find improved solutions for operating safely and efficiently.
While testing a padded shoulder device during a panel tilt, an employee recommended that this device be offered to employees during brace placement activities, as well. He felt the extra padding would greatly reduce the stress from packing wall braces.
Many generations and companies have come before us that have established safe work practices. In addition, many organizations are working to inform workers about safe work practices, such as OSHA. Subcontracting partners have best practices specific to their areas of work that we can apply on our jobsites, as well. If we allow our ears to be open, the simple act of listening can teach us most of what we need to know.
Utilize resources such as the OSHA 30 class, the Perlo safety manual, and our safety professionals to raise awareness and solve problems. When ideas are shared, listen to them and think through each suggestion to determine whether it can improve the safety of our sites.
Prior to beginning an unfamiliar task, rally the crew and ask for their input. Perhaps someone has had past experience with the task and can be a resource, or collectively, a safe work plan can be established.
With any problem, there is rarely one solution. When identifying ways to complete tasks, identify all of the ways it can be done, consider the pros and cons of each, and then find the common ground to complete the task. If one worker has a faster but less safe way to complete an item, and another worker has a slower but safer way to complete the item, the safer option is the correct route. Settle on that strategy and move forward. We should always be looking for the optimal way to complete each task safely. Determining the right route will often involve sharing ideas and melding them together to find the optimal path forward.
While constructing a six-story self-storage building, it was identified the overhead powerlines would pose a significant hazard to employees. While working with OSHA Consultation, PGE, the building owner, the neighboring business, our effected subcontractors and the management, a safe work plan was developed. First, where possible, the power lines were moved away from the building. Second, a narrow swing stage scaffold was utilized instead of a standard boom or scissor lift. Next, the length of metal siding material was shortened to reduce the likelihood of it touching the charged overhead lines. All parties were given the opportunity to contribute to the solution and the task was accomplished without incident.
It can be easy to become complacent about safety, particularly when monotonous tasks are involved. It is imperative, however, that the same focus remain from start to finish. As projects near the end, during punch list repairs, for instance, it can be tempting to ‘cut corners’. Say there is a 6’ ladder nearby but a 10’ ladder is more appropriate to complete a task safely. Even though it will take time to grab the correct ladder, it is not worth risking the health and wellness of the worker. Remain diligent, all the way through the finish line.
If we embed safety as a top priority into our everyday culture, then actions to optimize the health and wellness of all workers will be the priority from start to finish, even if the safe route is not necessarily the fastest route to completion.
Safety should be just as much a focus on day one as on the last day of a project; it takes consistency and discipline. Our two-story, 127,000 SF Eugene VA Healthcare Center project ended with zero recordable incidents; this was largely due to the fact that safety was a daily conversation and everyone onsite took responsibility for it.
Safety and the efforts required to keep workers safe is often not seen as a ‘fun’ topic. But change the perspective here: a worker who goes home to his or her family each day is capable of maximizing the fun in their life and enjoying time with their family. A person who is severely injured or worse, is unlikely to have the same opportunities.
We want to make sure that we are recognizing those who are working safely, changing the narrative so that safe work practices are the admired and praised thing to do. With consistent, positive reinforcement for the safe behaviors we want to see, we can make sure the priority on our sites is for all workers to go home safely each day.
Did you know?
Did you know your safety team carries spot reward items? When they encounter someone going “above and beyond” with safe work practices, employees can be rewarded with anything from ball caps and camo framed safety glasses to flashlights and head lamps. Have you been caught doing something good lately?
The bottom line is that safety is priority #1 on our jobsites. We care about our people and their well-being both on and offsite, and want to see them living their best lives, free of injury, each and every day.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought confusion, stress and anxiety to our world earlier this year, and those elements are persisting today. In Oregon, construction was deemed an essential business, and as such, Perlo has been able to continue operations with some modifications to ensure health and safety. We are grateful that we have been able to maintain the employment of nearly 400 people, as well as hundreds of subcontracted employees working on our jobsites, and have done so safely.
When it was clear that construction activity would resume, we assembled a task force to look at ways that we can best support our employees and our communities. While Perlo was fortunate to continue operating, many other businesses were either shut down, or severely restricted, and we wanted to find a way to help them. Out of this effort, our #rebuildtogether campaign was born.
What is the #rebuildtogether campaign?
#rebuildtogether is a support and giving campaign that is designed to help the communities we live and work in during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that a collective effort to sustain and rebuild businesses hardest hit by the measures put in place to minimize the spread of COVID-19 will help everyone in our economy to recover and eventually thrive. Our hope is that by providing care to our own employees and non-profit partners, as well as bringing revenue to other local businesses, we will inspire others to pitch in, help where each of us can and come out of this pandemic stronger on the other side.
The campaign has so far included efforts to provide food to both our internal employees, as well as members of the community that have no prior connection to Perlo at all. After all, there is joy in sharing a meal.
Our internal company efforts have included, among other things, purchasing and distributing fresh produce boxes from Caruso Produce to all field and office employees at least once per month. In June, we also donated more than 15 of those produce boxes to Parrott Creek Child & Family Services, True Housing, and Sunshine Pantry in Tigard.
The Big Idea
Externally, we sought to develop an even bigger idea, which culminated in partnering with ten locally owned restaurants to provide 50 free meals to their customers. In addition to funding the meals (up to $25 per order), Perlo provides a $250 tip to the restaurant staff, and the efforts to design and produce associated marketing materials. In this way, we hope to do our part to make sure that Perlo isn’t alone when this pandemic ends. We want all of the surrounding businesses to survive, too.
Our Restaurant Partners
Our commitment includes partnering with ten restaurants at a rate of one per week. There are an overwhelming number of restaurants in and around the Portland Metro area that can use support during this time. Our choices for partnerships were made based in part on restaurants we have used in the past for events and company lunches, spreading the effort across our region to reach communities where our employees live, and most importantly, finding restaurants that are locally owned and operated.
Our partners to date have included:
Located on 12th street in downtown Portland, Cheryl’s on 12th was founded by Cheryl & Ed Casey. At the time of our partnership, they reported that more than 60% of their pre-COVID business was for corporate and special event catering – most of which ceased when businesses shut down. Perlo utilized their services for delivering lunches to many of our jobsites to show our appreciation for our field crews. We are grateful for their participation in launching the first of our free meals program.
Stark Street Pizza specializes in New York style crispy crust pizza and has been serving pizza in southeast Portland since 1965. Their service was modified for curbside pick-up when the COVID restrictions occurred. Stark Street Pizza was great about taking some fun photos of their staff and customers and gave away their 50 free meals within 6 hours of opening.
With unique beers and pub style eats, Breakside Brewery in Slabtown was a partnership borne from the suggestion of one of our long-time clients, Capstone Partners. A tenant in one of their buildings, Breakside Brewery serves up good food and craft beer. Started in 2010, Breakside now has two other locations in Portland and Milwaukie, and in 2019 became one of only a handful of employee-owned breweries across the entire country.
This staple of Hillsboro serves up some of the best burgers in town! Located on the busy corner of Farmington and River roads, the Cruise In Country Diner is locally owned and operated, and serves natural and organic meats, homemade shakes and fries, and purchases their products from local suppliers as much as possible. The #rebuildtogether effort served up 105 burgers, including to our own Elissa Looney, Senior Manager, whose family lives near the diner.
El Sol de Mexico – Tigard
El Sol de Mexico holds a soft spot in Perlo hearts, as it’s located just across from our previous office location on 72nd Avenue in Tigard and was a popular lunch destination within walking distance for our employees. Serving up classic Mexican dishes, their fajitas, enchiladas and burritos can’t be beat! Open for lunch and dinner, El Sol will also package their delicious salsa in take home containers for families to enjoy. A few of our Perlo families dined here during the campaign giveaway, including Project Manager Adam Smelley and his family. They reported that the cheese enchilada and beef taco combo were delicious!
The restaurant located furthest from our headquarters, Fat Moose Bar & Grill is a staple of Woodland, Washington. Many of our employees live in or around the Woodland area, and one of our owners, Jeff Perala, grew up with the owner of Fat Moose Bar & Grill. With classic burgers, sandwiches and wraps, Fat Moose is a great place for meals and has a parking lot large enough to accommodate boat parking for those coming off a day of fun on the nearby lakes.
With three locations, including their flagship location in Tualatin, Ancestry Brewing creates all of its product at its Tualatin location. Family owned, Ancestry crafts their own brews, with IPA’s in American, Irish, English and Belgian styles as well as seasonal and barrel aged beer. Their food menu includes delicious starters, salads, burgers and sandwiches. Perlo Office Coordinator Kelsey Kirkpatrick toured their facility with Ancestry’s Jeremy and Suzanne.
Perhaps our most inspiring restaurant, Po’ Shines café not only provides good food to its neighborhood, it also fulfills a larger mission to supply food to hungry citizens and job skills training to inner-city youth. With more than 10,000 meals donated to the community so far, Po’ Shines has stepped up in even bigger ways during the COVD-19 pandemic. Their efforts have included feeding seniors for free during the week, and nearly 500 meals each weekend to Portland’s homeless population.
General Manager John Tolbert reports that though some of their regular catering gigs have slowed, their regular customers have continued to show up for take-out during the shutdown, and they are grateful for that support. They have also increased their business with Multnomah county, supplying many of the meals for county run homeless shelters and food pantries.
Po’ Shines doesn’t yet know when they will be able to reopen their culinary school for in-person classes but are researching options for virtual classes in the interim. When they can resume, they plan to re-open the culinary school program, and will be incorporating classes for 14 – 22 year old youth who are in need of job training.
Perlo’s Director of Business Development, Todd Duwe, says “their fried cat fish and hush puppies are one of my Blazer game go-to’s”. We may not know when we’ll be able to attend a Blazer game next, but if you’re in the mood for a little southern soul food, swing by their brick and mortar store for some takeout soon!
Owned by the dynamic husband and wife duo, Matt and Janae Petrous serve up delicious pizzas in Beavercreek, Oregon! Staunch supporters or their community, when Perlo approached them about partnering for the #rebuildtogether campaign, they immediately looked for ways they could pass on the ‘giving’ in turn. Their generous spirit is exactly the kind of thing we want to support. In the mood for pizza? This free food deal will be available on July 30th, so make sure to grab a pizza at Jimmy O’s on that day!
Perlo partnered with a brand new Gladstone take-out restaurant known as Pearl’s Place. A rebirth of the well-known caterer, Two Girls Catering, Pearl’s Place is owner Pam McClung’s restaurant reinvention that was borne out of the closure of her catering business due to COVID-19. Pam had to shift her entire business strategy and has done so in a very short amount of time. A true ‘rebuild’, we are glad to support Pam’s new endeavor, and hope you’ll check them out very soon!
Where do we go from here?
Though our efforts with the weekly restaurant campaign is nearing an end, our commitment to helping rebuild our communities is not.
In addition to continuing to support our employees and non-profit partners, we are also committed to helping our customers retrofit their physical spaces in preparation of employees returning to the office, or to provide upgrades to increase their health and safety measures as we all respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Special Projects Group has completed research into a variety of physical building changes that may help to prevent the spread of illness in commercial spaces. Our teams are prepared to engage to make any changes a building may need to help safely bring team members back to work. For more information, check out the information outlined here. If cost is an issue, please let us know. We care about our community, and will do our part to help make spaces safe for your employees.
Our #rebuildtogether campaign continues to evolve, and we aren’t done with our work, yet. Watch this space for further announcements about ways Perlo is giving back to our community.
A Call to Action
Undoubtedly, the way forward will take all of us working together. If you’ve been inspired by our efforts or have received free food through our #rebuildtogether campaign and are in a position to do so, we encourage you to find small ways to pay it forward to others around you.
If we all pitch in, we will come out of this stronger on the other side and with our community businesses intact.
Perlo puts a premium on people – clients, partners, and most of all, employees. This commitment to culture starts from the top. In this article, Chris Gregg, our Senior VP of Operations, shares his story about what Perlo means to him. He also shares his personal journey to where he is today as well as his perspective about where he thinks the construction industry is headed.
What’s your role at Perlo?
I’m still transitioning into my new role as Senior VP of Operations. In this position, I’m handling a lot of the “in between” stuff. People come to me with different issues. I hear about all sorts of things – projects, processes, training, software, you name it. I listen and help provide guidance.
Most of the time people already know what the right decision is, but they just need a sounding board to talk it through. By hearing them out and asking questions, I help them come to a better solution.
How did you get you started in construction?
I was on a senior trip after high school with my best friend and his dad. His dad was soft-spoken but was a very cool guy. He runs his family business which invented a coating for circuit boards that could handle the harsh environments of space. I remember we had just eaten dinner, and we were walking up the stairs. As I recall, it was pouring down rain. He asked me what I was going to do with my life. I said I have no idea. I remember he turned to me and said, “You’re going to be an engineer.”
That cemented it. My buddy and I then went on to OSU. His family helped pay for me to go. While I was there, industrial engineering really spoke to me. After school, I got hired by a technology company in Vancouver where I was in charge of bringing on new equipment. Everything had to be documented. Part of my role was to help the company plan for an expansion. I was hooked and I poured my heart into this project. It didn’t feel like work.
Then I met Gayland Looney, one of the owners of Perlo. We talked for several hours. He told me about the construction industry and I told him about my passion for engineering and processes. Later, a field engineering position at Perlo opened up and I was offered the position. At the time, I had shaggy hair and wore jeans, which my colleagues still joke about.
Every day I’m glad I’m here. As a kid you always hope you’re going to find something that you’re passionate about. This job has never been a job for me. I enjoy every minute of it. I feel very fortunate.
What does the “Perlo Way” mean to you?
The Perlo Way is about doing what’s right no matter what that entails. I remember when I was doing my first project for Perlo. It was a big project for Village Baptist Church. It was an emotional project. You could see how much the congregation and the people were excited about this facility we were building for them. I became very involved with the people there. I even ended up being a best man in a wedding that occurred mid-way through construction in the very unfinished sanctuary.
I remember one time in particular. The choir group wasn’t understanding the color scheme. So I sat through meeting after meeting with the group to help them figure out what they wanted. I even ended up helping them pick out choir robes. I realized then that being part of Perlo was doing whatever it takes to get the job done. And if that means ordering choir robes, so be it.
How do you think the construction industry will change over the next ten years?
There’s a wave of tech changes coming that will dramatically alter construction. There are a couple of driving forces behind this wave. First, the population in Oregon is growing. At the same time, the labor force is dwindling dramatically. People aren’t wanting to learn the trade industries. They’re wanting to be a YouTube star or a blogger. It’s getting tougher and tougher to find good people – people who actually want to work hard and work with their hands. The reality is that we’re going to need to figure out to meet an increasing demand with less labor. We’re looking at prefab as one solution. Also, we’re going to continue to need to adopt more sustainable practices and produce less waste on jobsites.
What do you like to do in your time off?
I’m a homebody. I enjoy just putzing around the house and playing with my kids. I’m a kid at heart. I’m always coming up with games or building forts. I just love hanging out with my boys. If I have a choice, I’m with my family.
What drives you crazy?
I can’t stand indecision. To me, the only wrong decision is no decision. In our work, we’re faced with so many decisions. But if you don’t make a decision, a small problem today can become a nightmare tomorrow. The way I see it, you have to “leave the dock” and do something – you can always course correct if needed. When I see indecision, that’s when I step in – whether I’m supposed to or not.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can offer to people considering going into construction?
The biggest piece of advice I can offer is that construction is not for the faint of heart. You have to solve problems every day and that can take a toll on you. You have to report tough things – like an unexpected sinkhole. You have to be able to show the owner that you care – and that you’ll take care of the problem. You’re constantly trying to keep it together and show leadership and strength. That can wear you out. I’ve seen people lose their soft sides and become angry at the world and not treat clients or subs well. Or they just burn out. It’s a tough business.
What gets you through your tough days?
I use a time-management tool so I can keep my mind clear. I manage my time in 30-minute chunks. I keep my inbox clean. I list everything that I need to do and what I have gotten done– it’s my scoreboard. That’s how I can tell whether I’ve had a productive day or not. I don’t carry stuff in my head. I write everything down so I don’t get bogged down.
What do you think makes Perlo unique in the marketplace?
I think it’s our culture. At Perlo, people genuinely care about each other. The company is set up where we all win together. There are no cutthroat people or big egos here. People are looking out for each other. We all genuinely like hanging out with each other. There’s a lot of laughter here.
Any other thoughts?
I know a lot of us feel fear and uncertainty right now. But I know that our focus on a family feel at Perlo will get us through this. The exciting thing is that together we can create whatever we want.
There’s no question that the effects of this pandemic will be hard-hitting and long-lasting. We can give up. Or we can dig in. To get through this challenge, we’ll need to rethink, restore, and rebuild. And we’ll need to continue to pull together as a company and a community.
At Perlo, we have a strong culture of connecting our people and our communities. We believe that by doubling down on our efforts to bring everyone together, we can find a way through. In short, we believe that by helping others, we all win.
Finding our purpose.
Gayland Looney, co-owner of Perlo, believes that the best way to face our fears is to identify our purpose. In his mind, there’s no better purpose than having the opportunity to help others.
Gayland shares a story of when he was suffered a badly broken ankle on a hunting trip in the Idaho wilderness a few years ago. He remembers the fear on everyone’s faces. But what he discovered was that if he gave each person a purpose – basically a simple task of helping – people started to relax.
“I think we all need a purpose in order to deal with our fears in a productive way,” Gayland offers. “By being able to put one foot in front of the other, we feel better.”
His idea is backed by scientific research. Helping others not only provides a sense of purpose, it lowers depression, regulates our emotions, and improves our overall emotional well-being.
Finding ways to help.
There are many things each of us can do to keep “putting one foot in front of the other.” Take, for example, a recent blood drive we held for the Red Cross. 27 brave Perlo volunteers stepped up to donate their blood, ringing in a grand total of 24 pints of blood collected. These efforts were not insignificant. In fact, this amount of blood translated to potentially 72 lives saved.
Another great example of pitching in to help was an effort led by our own Kimberly Wood, Director of Corporate Risk Management. Recognizing that crew members would have a hard time tracking down masks at the onset of the crisis, she took on the herculean task of launching a massive mask sewing project. She singlehandedly created mask kits that included ready-cut materials and how-to instructions. She then recruited co-workers, including Rebecca Cook, and even Perlo family members to join the team. This crew made close to 1,000 masks in one weekend. Since then, Rebecca has expanded the mask initiative and organized another crew to create even more masks. The net result is that “Project Mask” has created enough masks for all field workers as well as family members, partners, and even clients.
Crystal Bentley, Lead Assistant Project Manager at Perlo, launched her own initiative to help out. She grew vegetable starts and then gave them away for free to people in the community. As she shares, “Being able to grow your own food is empowering. I want to show others that you can grow food anywhere.”
Pulling together to help out doesn’t have to be a huge project. Everything counts – even the small efforts such as picking up groceries for elderly neighbors or making a donation to a local non-profit.
Inspiration from our Perlo partners.
We’re inspired by our partners who are stepping up to help out in really important ways. Here’s a peek at what some of them are doing.
A local food distributor, Alpine Foods, is filling a critical need and finding strategic ways to make a difference. Some of their community initiatives include donating food to Gleaners of Clackamas County, a non-profit that is committed to reducing hunger and waste by distributing food to low-income, senior, and disabled people throughout Clackamas County. Alpine Foods is also assisting with local school nutrition programs, supporting USDA box programs, and distributing sandwiches to the homeless in and around Portland. In addition, Alpine Foods is providing regular meals for their own internal teams.
Capstone Partners, headed up by Chris Nelson, has taken a proactive and hands-on approach to helping out where help is most needed. Chris and his Capstone team are providing immediate rent relief to his tenants, which include restaurants, shops, and other retail businesses that have been hit the hardest. This initiative provides actual rent forgiveness for a period of time to help tenants navigate their financial challenges.
Capstone has played a pivotal role in supporting United for Relief, an advocacy group comprised of business and real estate representatives that is seeking a “right to defer” rule that would stop lenders from declaring default for missed mortgage payments. Their efforts would go a long way to protect tenants during this COVID emergency. Ultimately, this rule would be a win/win for both tenants and landlords.
Stoller Family Estate
Stoller Family Estate, another Perlo partner, has gone above and beyond to reach out to vulnerable community members. They’re donating a considerable portion of sales from select wines to Meals on Wheels, an organization that has spent the past 50 years meeting the social and nutritional needs of older adults in the community.
Stoller has also launched a “Making a Case for Giving” initiative that’s a proceeds-matching program to help raise funds for non-profits in the area.
Spreading the Perlo net of support.
Every day we look for ways both big and small to build the fabric of our community. We’re supporting the efforts of Healing Arts Animal Care by loaning tall cones for signage to help safely treat animal patients outdoors. We’re continuing to provide resources to Parrott Creek Child & Family Services, a group dedicated to building stronger families and safer communities.
Perlo is contributing funds to Providence Cancer Center, along with personal donations from Gayland Looney and others, to ensure the center’s important work continues. When the center’s annual fundraising dinner had to be canceled due to COVID-19, we turned our sponsorship into a direct donation.
A big idea to help out.
To make a big difference, we’re looking at how we can create the most impact by focusing on what we do best, which of course, is to build. To capitalize on our strengths, we’re launching a new program called “#RebuildTogether.”
We’ll focus on our local restaurants through a hands-on sponsorship program. Our plan is to sponsor a total of ten local restaurants to help them through this time. They’ve been there for us, so we want to be there for them. Stay tuned for more updates on this “big idea.”
As a culture and a company, Perlo will continue to strengthen its purpose by fostering connections with our families, our co-workers, and our communities. As Gayland puts it, “There’s no better way to move forward than by reaching out and helping out.”
“We work hard, we take care of our people, and we always do what’s right.”
– The Perlo Way
When we came up with “The Perlo Way,” we had no idea we’d be tested the way we’re being tested now. COVID-19 is the challenge of the century. And yet, we know that by staying grounded in our core beliefs, we’ll get to the other side stronger than ever.
#PerloStrong: More than just a hashtag.
#PerloStrong started with our people in the field. It encapsulates our drive to dig in and face this challenge with grit and determination.
#PerloStrong has generated a flurry of activity. Our risk management and IT teams, along with many family members, took on the herculean task of sewing masks for our employees and their families, as well as for clients, project owners, and partners. Our marketing team is delivering lunches to work sites. Our executives are visiting projects to coordinate with superintendents to make sure they have the safety equipment they need. Our safety team has even started setting up temperature screening protocols on several projects.
Our key goals for Perlo at this time are simple:
- To look after the health of every team member.
- To continue to be a business that supports the lives of hundreds of employees and their families.
- To deliver on our commitments to our clients.
- To give back to our community.
Keeping our people safe.
Health and safety have to come first. Perlo has implemented many new policies and initiatives over the last month that go well above and beyond the CDC guidelines and state mandates.
Specifically, we’ve taken the following precautions:
- Installed handwashing stations at all job sites, complete with water, soap dispensers, and paper towel dispensers.
- Banned all in-person meetings or group gatherings inside job trailers or at the office.
- Asked workers to take breaks and eat meals in their own vehicles.
- Implemented six-foot social distancing for all work activities, overseen by a Social Distancing Officer at all sites.
- Provided all field workers with masks to wear onsite.
- Encouraged all office employees to work remotely.
- Implemented more frequent cleaning and disinfection of surfaces.
- Re-designed entrance and exit locations at job sites to enable safety measures.
- Posted signage to remind workers of new safety requirements.
- Revamped COVID-19 “Toolbox Talks” to educate all employees on new policies.
Focusing on our culture.
At Perlo, we play together to stay together. Even in this strange time of social distancing, face masks, and constant handwashing, our team spirit is what keeps us going strong.
To maintain our culture, we’ve launched a “Perlo Challenge” that poses new challenges for employees each week, with fun raffle prizes at the end. We’re holding virtual happy hours, bingo games, and have moved our in-house educational book club to a virtual platform. In addition, we’re sharing wellness tips and ways to manage stress, so that we all have the tools to cope in this “new normal.”
Supporting our communities.
We recognize that it does take a village. Perlo has always supported the community by investing volunteer hours and other resources into critical non-profits like Meals on Wheels and Children’s Cancer Association. Through this crisis, we’re stepping up our efforts. We’re maintaining our sponsorship commitments to fundraisers that have been canceled. Wherever we can, we’re continuing to support local restaurants and other suppliers to help them stay in business. In early May, we’ll be holding a blood drive for Perlo employees to help augment hospital supplies.
Staying grounded in our mission.
By upholding the strictest safety standards, finding ways to keep our people connected, and giving back to our surrounding communities, we’ll continue to follow our mission: to do what’s right. This singular mission is at the heart of #PerloStrong. We thank each and every one of our employees for being strong and keeping an eye on what’s ahead. Together, we do see a better future.