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Close-up: Rene Olivo

Rudolph and Sletten executive climbed ladder from intern to VP

As the Vice President of Operations for general engineering and contracting firm Rudolph and Sletten, Rene Olivo never lacks for new challenges.

Responsible for more than $750 million in projects and nearly 150 staff members and contractors, Olivo said that "from the moment I walk into the office, I am engaged with all aspects of our business -- our clients, projects, prospects and employees."

As a senior executive, he provides leadership to his team, helping them think through project coordination, navigate an ever-changing set of priorities, and assess resource allocation to make sure that projects are completed on time, on budget, and with exceptional quality.

Olivo knew early on in his life that this was the kind of challenging career he wanted. He studied civil engineering at San Diego State University and while he immersed himself in academic study, he also took advantage of opportunities to gain field experience, working for the Metropolitan Water District, Eastern Municipal Water District and BSI Consultants -- entering bridge engineering competitions -- and soaking up as much hands-on learning as he could.

Rene Olivo

While he had broad exposure to different companies during college, Olivo didn't end up at Rudolph and Sletten by chance.

"My father was a labor foreman for a large Rudolph and Sletten project in Temecula and told me about how this construction company was different from those he had worked for in his 30-year career," Olivo explained. "Many of the companies he worked for talked a good game about safety, quality and commitment. But this one, he said, had it embedded as part of their company culture and made employees feel as part of the family owned business."

An internship at the company led to a job offer delivered by none other than Mr. Sletten himself.

With his long history in commercial building in the San Diego market, Olivo has had the chance to see first-hand the ups and downs of the sector.

"San Diego is unique as it does not have a large commercial building sector as other large cities," he said. "We are bordered by Camp Pendleton, the mountain ranges to the east, the ocean on the west, and Mexico to the south, which does not allow for easy geographic expansion to capture more of a market share when the economy is depressed."

The economic volatility of the past decade, including the current recession, has directly impacted the local commercial building sector. Competition is up and Olivo noted that "where before we would see four to five contractors going after a particular project, we now find 20 to 30, many of which are willing to reduce fees to almost nothing in order to stay in business in hopes that the economy will turn around soon."

In Olivo's opinion though, the success of a commercial builder such as Rudolph and Sletten can't be reduced to price. Instead, it comes down to "a good business model, satisfied owners, forward-thinking project management, and exceptional employees."

The company culture that his father told him about many years ago is still central to the organization, Olivo said, and that helps give clients confidence knowing that in hiring Rudolph and Sletten they will have hired a "progressive forward-thinking contractor who will look out for their interests."

Despite his years in the industry, Olivo sees new and exciting things on the horizon, particularly the emphasis on green building. Under his leadership, the company has taken many steps to "go green," including using hybrid vehicles for employees, using sustainable products in the office, and making sure that the projects built are as green as can be. To this end, the company has 145 LEED Accredited Professionals -- including Olivo.

In his spare time, Olivo is an engaged father, husband and community member. Following in the tradition of Rudolph and Sletten community involvement, he participates in fundraisers for organizations such as the The Salk Institute for Biological Studies. With three young children underfoot, he is busy at home often camping, coaching Little League in Bonita and -- when time permits -- enjoying a nice glass of wine with his wife on the pool deck.

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1 UserComments
Gilbert Perez 2:43pm September 12, 2011

WOW! I knew Mr. Olivo growing up and I am not at all surprised on his achievements, Mr. Olivo even as a teenager was an individual who motivated, lead and mentored others. I was also fortunate to meet his father a person of great integrity who did not miss any opportunity to motivate us as youngsters, he took every opportunity to redirect us to set a vision for our future; a bright future. Congratulations, Mr. Rene Olivo. Rudolph and Sletten are fortunate to have you.