R.D. Olson Construction

RD Olson PicGeneral contractor R.D. Olson Construction owes its success to its employees who develop excellent relationships with customers.

By Stephanie Crets

R.D. Olson Construction believes that its greatest asset is the people who work for the company. Their skills, talent and dedication to the company’s customers and client partners give R.D. Olson an edge over most in construction industry. Thanks to these relationships built over the last 37 years, the company is able to negotiate 80 percent of its projects on an annual basis.

“We truly focus on customer relations and partnerships,” President Bill Wilhelm says. “It’s not about how big we can grow. We’re not chasing a number. We’re focused on growing the revenue based on the success we have with our customers and partners. As they grow, we grow along with them. With that mindset, we are able to negotiate a high volume of work because customers know what they’re getting, and then we exceed these expectations.”

R.D. Olson works as a national general contractor, licensed in 22 states, but the vast majority if its work is in California. It is in a retooling process right now because many of its customers are national and R.D. Olson is preparing to venture back out of state.

It also works on projects in a variety of industries: 60 percent of its volume is hospitality focused, including ground-up hotels, hotel renovations and adaptive reuse, which is converting office spaces into hotels, restaurants, spas and more. Another 30 percent is multi-unit development, which is time-share products, for-rent student housing and assisted affordable housing, among others; and 10 percent includes education, retail and unique entertainment facility projects.RD Olson box

“Every one of our projects is special,” Wilhelm says. “We don’t just partner with anyone that’s out there. The partners we have are doing unique and difficult projects. If we’re doing a Residence Inn, it’s not a typical prototype, it’s a Residence Inn on steroids – the finishes are elevated, the structure is complicated or the lobby is lavish.”

Building Efficiency    

R.D. Olson recently completed a resort-style Residence Inn in Wailea, Hawaii, a four-and-a-half-diamond property. Work is underway on a 15-story full-service Marriott Hotel in Irvine, Calif., which includes a new design that Marriott will begin implementing on its new hotel projects. Other current projects include the adaptive reuse of a historical building for which R.D. Olson is working to maintain the exterior skin, windows and façade as they are converted into hospitality properties, such as the Nomad Hotel downtown Los Angeles or the H Hotel dual-brand property at the LAX airport, and timeshare projects in the desert that is all prefabricated with metal stud designs.

“Since we negotiate such a large percentage of our work, we’re brought in early, so we’re working hand in hand with designers, consultants, engineers, etc.,” Wilhelm explains. “We’re also bringing our subcontractors in early. With pricing as volatile as it has been the last few years, we’re constantly looking for what’s a more economic approach. It kind of forces the hand at looking at new technology, new systems and understanding new codes. On top of that, we’re very well networked with different vendors.”

The company is strongly focused on energy efficiency in building design, including the HVAC systems, electrical and lighting systems, any control systems and building exteriors. Since most of its projects are California-based, R.D. Olson is looking more closely at all the stringent requirements on energy efficiency.

“During the design phase, I believe we can do as well as anyone else if not better by introducing various options for the consultants and ownership to consider,” Wilhelm says. “Whether it’s an exterior glazing system, a steel building system or prefabricated panels so walls and floors are preassembled with a metal stud system – that’s not typical in California – or looking to capitalize on how to improve the efficiency of existing mechanical systems.  We constantly think outside the box and look for ways to enhance the experience and energy efficiency.”

People Matter

R.D. Olson operates with an entrepreneurial philosophy, wanting to provide support for its people while also enabling them to go out and make their own business decisions. Its employees thrive on the accountability and the freedom to create their own success – and the customers feel it too. “That’s what customers love about R.D. Olson: People aren’t afraid to make decisions, are qualified to make decisions and make good, sound decisions,” Wilhelm notes.

He goes on to say that the company’s people are its greatest asset, but that the subcontractors, architects, designers and customers are just as important. Without any of those pieces of the company, R.D. Olson would not be as successful as it has been. “I come to work every day loving what I do, and I even miss it on the weekends,” Wilhelm says. “This is my family; we’re family here. I learned a long time ago that our true success comes down to having great people. Without any one of them, we would not be where we are today.

“Today, we’re doing $250 million in volume annually and building high-end properties across the country. We’re chasing that passion/dream Bob Olson put in place 37 years ago. We owe that to customers, design team, our employees and subcontractors.”

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