In 1979 Orluff Opheikens was on top of the world. He had a wife and family, money, nice cars, a nice home and a booming residential construction business, Opheikens & Company.
But things would quickly change. Orluff vividly remembers the time his world came to a screeching halt as national interest rates soured to over 20 percent. This abrupt and unforeseen hike in interest rates crippled Opheikens and Company.
Orluff rebounded. In 1980, he surrounded himself with a team of trusted friends and co-workers and decided that in order to make a living, he would have to switch gears and focus on the commercial construction market. Orluff turned to longtime friend Les Randall who ponied up $65,000 to go with some of Orluff’s own money, and together they formed Randall and Opheikens Construction Company or R&O Construction.
Working out of Orluff’s basement with his partners Lynn Wright and Frank McDonough, R&O began trying to land as many jobs as they could in a market that was brutally competitive.
Estimating Vice President Frank McDonough said: “It was a tough bidding market. I bid 20 jobs before I got one in the early part of 1980. I had more second and third place results than I could count. It was very frustrating.”
Former Operations Vice President Lynn Wright recalls, “They wanted our resume; we had no resume. When you start out a commercial company, you start out at the bottom of the barrel.”
Sixteen to 18 hour days were commonplace during the first few years in business. Orluff said: “Our time was spent on figuring out how we were going to earn a dollar—what could we do to get a job? We were just looking at any opportunity to keep the people who were still with us.”
R&O got its first real break a short time later because of Orluff’s relationship with Tom Welch, who at that time was legal counsel for Smith’s Food King, the up-and-coming grocery giant. Their relationship led to R&O’s first grocery store project, the building of a new Smith’s store in West Valley.
That first Smith’s store turned out to be the perfect tonic for the fledgling company. Even though the job was underbid and the company lost money, Smith’s owner, Dee Smith, was so enamored with the quality of construction that he immediately asked R&O to continue bidding on their stores. After a couple of years, R&O began negotiating Smith’s projects.
The original values that built R&O Construction hold true today. “It’s repeat business that allows you to grow,” said Orluff. “If you can’t make a customer happy on the job you’re on today, they won’t give you that repeat business.”
R&O continued to add more retail stores and broadened its project portfolio to include lifestyle centers, office buildings and parks, state and municipal projects, multi-family housing, recreation centers, production and manufacturing facilities, health care and more. R&O’s construction region eventually expanded to 18 states.
In an interview in 1993, R&O was asked about their business philosophy, and Orluff answered: “Never miss a deadline. Give the customer maximum service. At R&O Construction we believe our greatest strength is our people — the skilled professionals who must daily meet the demanding standards of our nationally recognized clients. We hire only the best and provide them with a stable work environment in a historically unstable industry, and it shows. We now have an area-wide reputation for consistently meeting customer needs and for a flexible approach to project planning and execution unmatched by any other commercial construction firm in the region.”
R&O also operates successful offices in Las Vegas, Nevada and Salt Lake City, Utah, established to better meet the needs of its regional customers.
President Slade Opheikens says of the company today: “When you are one of our clients, it is expected that we take care of you. If you are coming to us for budgets, our budgets need to be accurate. Based on the information we have received, it is our responsibility to help you rely on getting your financing. It isn’t just another job. We expect to get to know your project needs and project specific requirements. Hopefully we get to go have some fun together. It’s not all about work. And it is not always about money.
“The loyalty of our long-term clients is created by our people. It’s us doing what we say we will do and committing to do it better each time.” Slade adds.