Since 1998, every fall, as regular as the changing seasons, John Humes has trekked to the Salmon River in upstate New York. He goes to fish for king and coho salmon and steelhead trout. Catching trophy fish, which often happens but sometimes does not,
has never been the point. Fishing is just the vehicle. Making memories with the family who joins him there is the real catch.
The rhythms of family and tradition are his grounding. His office in Torrington is busy not just with building plans and schedules and memos organized across desktops but with mementos of family. His screen saver is a long loop of family trips, family weddings and birthdays, family fishing and hunting trophies, family race cars and hockey games. It’s the high regard O&G places on family that first drew Humes to the company in 2000.
John Humes has always worked in the Building Group but has changed hats several times. He began in pre-construction, learning
the O&G way to tee up a building project before the first shovel hits the ground. He helped locate subcontractors, solicit bids,
review bids, ask architects for clarifications.
“I sometimes helped in marketing, too, and did some in-house project engineering,” he says. “I was the liaison between the estimating and marketing departments for some design/build projects, so I had a taste of estimating, too. Everything I learned in that first year in pre-construction I use now on a daily basis.”
Today Humes leads the Special Projects Group, the lean offshoot of the Building Group. It focuses on smaller, faster projects – projects that are larger than many smaller construction firms could handle but not quite the size to fit the Building Group’s capabilities.
He was given the opportunity to frame and build the group: “We began as an idea and now we do construction management,
we do hard bids, we do design-build. We work in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and we’re looking beyond that. We work in a lot
of different settings – industrial, health care, schools, higher education, corporate fit-outs.”
His ten-person team has become a twelve million-dollar-a-year revenue generator. “We’re constantly juggling,” he says, “because the jobs are generally shorter.” A long job for Special Projects is a year, perhaps a year-and-a-half, but most jobs are quicker, measured in months. Everything is accelerated: the bidding cycle, the purchasing cycle, the marketing cycle and the actual work.
Business development is about twenty percent of what he does. He loves people and the energy of making a sale: “Everyone’s
project is special to them and that’s how we treat it.” Estimating after he’s made the sale is the bulk of what he does. Another of
the hats he wore at O&G, from 2003 until 2010, was the estimating hat, under Building Group estimator Bill Coyne, his “mentor and
instructor.” Humes is now a professional estimator accredited by the American Society of Professional Estimators. “There’s a lot of detail that goes into setting up a job for success – the estimate itself, the purchasing and buyout, writing the contracts. I love it all.”
But back to family. He talks about his special fondness for the late Francis Oneglia. He tells how they met in 1998. “I was a sub on an O&G job when I met him. He knew my dad so he looked for me and we talked. Time passed and I was hired by O&G and on my first day in Torrington there was Francis walking down the hall. He saw me and didn’t miss a beat: ‘John, great to have you here. I heard you were coming on board.’ I hadn’t seen him in two years. Another time he bumped into me at a burger place, bought me lunch and we had a long conversation. He wanted to know what I thought of the company and where I wanted to go. And he always asked about my family.” Humes adds, “You can still walk down a hallway and meet one of the Oneglias and they greet you by name and they know you. There are many people in this company with that same attitude Francis had. I think that’s why I’ve been
here so long.”