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.