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One Rep Max: Contractor Builds Community Muscle

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Millennials aren’t interested in merely seeking an employer with a good happy hour, according to Casco Contractors owner Cheryl Osborn.

“What they really want is to be part of a team for their community,” Osborn said on Oct. 16 before an audience of 400. “Remember, a great way to recruit people” is through volunteering.

She offered the idea at the Business Journal’s Civic 50 awards last Wednesday at Hotel Irvine, where her Irvine-based tenant improvement firm Casco Contractors Inc. received the Emerging Company nod at the third annual event.

Which is about how it goes when she’s on stage, which is a lot. Osborn’s given speeches to industry or community groups for much of the history of the firm, which has about $60 million in annual sales, up 21% year-over-year, and is the No. 6 TI contractor based in OC.

It has 74 employees—and that’s where the attention goes.

“When I started Casco, my goal was creating a culture that focused on people,” Osborn said.

“I’m dedicated to my employees and my clients because I know their success is my success.”

Aspire

As keynote speaker for CREW-OC’s SPIRE awards in Costa Mesa in March, Osborn told the assembled that 9% of construction CEOs are women, 3% in architecture, with, “one place I couldn’t find any data: developers.”

Casco does its bit to make up the difference, at least on the civic side.

Over the last four years its workers have raised $90,000 for Make-A-Wish Orange County & the Inland Empire.

Volunteer days—a paid day off annually for employees to devote to charities—resulted in Casco’s wider affiliation with Caterina’s Club, the food-for-kids effort of Anaheim White House chef and owner Sir Bruno Serato, named for his mother.

A March company event, Casco Cares Chili Cook-Off, raised $18,000 to help feed and house the homeless under the Caterina’s Club banner, and a similar amount for Make-A-Wish.

A System

Giving is engrained at the company, starting at the top.

In talks she’ll note the absence of a glass ceiling in her career—mainly because she founded her own firm and has run it as chief executive for 19 years—then move quickly to thanking those who came before her, gave her a shot, while noting the gradual emergence of women in building trades, from “anomaly to icon.”

Her community support has extended to South OC charity Laura’s House, and to Girls Inc. in Costa Mesa. She’s on the boards of both; Casco helps with upkeep at the former and began a “Casco Cares” program at the latter.

She’s involved at her alma mater, California State University-Long Beach, and Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics.

Taken together—industry talks, community support, pushing for change, backing it up with boots on the ground—the company and its founder are gaining a solid rep for pushing, pulling, constructing and confabbing colleagues and the collective industry to be their best.

Attraction

It’s partly what drew HR Director Casandra Buser to Casco five years ago, after 13 with Prudential Real Estate.

Community engagement “was a huge thing for us at Prudential,” Buser said, and it continued in her new role.

She said being a smaller company helps inspire volunteerism—employees know they can suggest events or favored causes and they’ll be heard; if something happens, they can see the results.

“They can come to me and say ‘hey let’s do this,’” Buser said. “They can feel it: ‘oh, I made a difference.’”

The employee who suggested Caterina’s Club, for instance, shook Serato’s hand.

“You could see he was touched,” Buser said.

In the end, it’s good business too, a boon, for instance, to recruiting and retention.

Back at a lectern, somewhere in OC, Osborn is delivering a signature line: “I’m just a contractor; I build [stuff].”

Later she adds another comment that given the company’s recent recognition plays even better.

“My team and I are dedicated to making the people that work and live in Orange County successful,” she said. “The secret to living is giving.”

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