April 30, 2012
Background: When Jerry Overaa went to college, he planned to
become an aeronautical engineer, but switched paths to construction
by his senior year and ended up going into the family business.
C. Overaa & Co., was founded by Jerry Overaa’s grandfather,
Carl Overaa, a Norwegian immigrant, in 1907. Jerry Overaa joined
the firm in 1966 and rose through the ranks until becoming
CEO. The firm has about 350 employees and operates throughout Northern
California with revenue of $235 million in 2011.
First job: Drawing plans for his father’s construction projects when he was
in high school.
Education: M.S. in civil engineering and construction engineering from Stanford
University. B.S. from U.C. Davis in civil engineering.
Residence: Lafayette.First job: Drawing plans for his father’s construction projects
How’s business: It’s better, but construction is still tough … There’s more
inquiries and more opportunities shooting up, but commercial construction is
down 30 percent in Northern California, and that is considered better than the
rest of the nation.
Biggest challenge for your business: Acquiring new projects.
What will change at your company in the next year: We’re doing more work
right now that involves the laboratories, quite a bit of education and doing
less in municipal infrastructure.
Goal yet to be achieved: We have to compete on so many fronts and in so many
ways, the goal is just to meet the challenges every day.
How will you know that you’ve achieved it: You really never know, you always
want to have a little bit of concern, anxiety that you can do it. You have to keep
looking to tomorrow.
Guiding principles for good management: You have to take a bit of a longer
view to make sure you are keeping good opportunities for the people who work
for you and not just look at the project that’s right in front of your eyes.
Best way to keep competitive edge: Have a skill, something you can do that
others can’t do.
Why people like working for you: Maybe they don’t know any better. They know
we really care about them, we know it’s important to keep them employed. We
don’t have many levels of management, so we know most people on a first-name
basis. And our ethics, we’ve kept our blue-collar ethics … It’s important to
respect dedicated people.
Mentor: Originally, it was my grandfather Carl, who came from Norway, my
Dad, and our longtime chief estimator Dick Wilkens. Now, it’s the people who
are 20 and 30 years younger than me who have different ideas, skills and wonder about life.
Best business decision: To try to keep our core people working even in the
hardest times and try to find new work for them even if we didn’t make money.
Hardest lesson learned: You can’t take anything for granted. You really have
to make sure that you follow all the little details.
Toughest business decision: Reducing staff, laying people off, and dealing
Biggest missed opportunity: Not being more concentrated in Silicon Valley.
Like best about job: I get energized by the people. In construction, there’s
a certain down-to-earth-ness, a certain sincerity; the people are real. Getting
to doing something with people you trust and like.
Like least about job: I get particularly frustrated by things that waste time
like useless meetings, there’s a bunch of them, and endless email chains.
Pet peeve: When people avoid dealing with a problem or make excuses.
Most respected competitor: Nibbi Brothers, DPR Construction, Hathaway
Dinwiddie, Kiewit Corp. and Lathop Construction.
First choice for a new career: Something in the arts like drawing or
Most influential book: “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand.
Favorite cause: Education.
Favorite movie: “Moneyball,” and more recently, “Hunger Games.”
Favorite restaurant: The one that will take my family for pizza night every
Tuesday for 12 to 20 people.
Favorite way to spend free time: Running, reading, hanging out with friends,
On your iPod: I haven’t been able to find it for a while. I basically listen
to sports talk and NPR.
Automobile: Audi Q7 with a lot of miles on it.
Construction Employers' Association
1646 N. California Blvd., Ste. 500
Walnut Creek, CA 94596-4171
Phone: (925) 930-8184