Michael K. O’Malley, M.B.A. ’97, is the vice president and CEO of Concrete Protection & Restoration—a Baltimore based specialty contractor providing structural repair and renovations to the mid-Atlantic marketplace. His background in engineering and his UB M.B.A. helped him co-found the company in 1996. O’Malley recently sat down with the Merrick Exchange and shared some thoughts about his career and entrepreneurship.
Merrick Exchange: How did you decide on a career in the construction industry?
O’Malley: During my undergraduate days at the University of Maryland College Park, as a mechanical engineering student, the weight of funding tuition rested upon my shoulders. In my junior year I was desperately seeking a paying summer internship, particularly in the field of engineering. A close relative suggested I apply to the firm where she worked. The firm happened to be a blossoming structural repair contractor who was actively pursuing engineering students in order to develop, educate, and train them this highly specialized and vastly growing industry. With little background in the civil field, and no construction experience, I was intimated, but not enough to give it a try—I needed the money. I interviewed on March 17, 1988, St. Patrick’s Day, and was immediately hired (must have been the luck of the Irish). Following my first summer of employment, I continued working there on a part-time basis. Upon graduation, I was offered a full-time position as a project engineer hence launching my infamous career in the construction industry.
M.E: Where did you get your start? What lead to your current position?
O’Malley: Concrete Protection and Restoration, Inc. was formed 16 years ago with my business partner, Don Caple. It originated from a business plan we developed while I was enrolled in the M.B.A. program at the University of Baltimore. As noted previously, I had been working for a structural repair contractor as an engineering co-op student since my undergraduate days at the University of Maryland. In 1996, after eight faithful years of service, I was released from my position at the engineering firm that started my career. This gave me the opportunity to put the business plan I created at UB into action and launch Concrete Protection and Restoration. Our original office/warehouse was located in a rundown row home. The roof was in such bad shape that we had to cover our computers with trash bags when we left for the evening to prevent water damage from any oncoming storms. However, through hard work, dedication, and a prosperous economy our business achieved record growth over the next 12 years. This year, during our 16th anniversary, CPR will have in its employment approximately 250 and should realize revenues in excess of $25 million. CPR, Inc. is the largest dedicated structural/concrete repair contractor in Maryland. In 2011, our firm was ranked 19th in the Baltimore Business Journal’s list of the largest construction and general contracting firms in Baltimore along with the ranks of Whiting and Turner and Turner Construction. One of our more notable projects is the structural renovation at the Pentagon. The scope of work includes structural repairs to the Pentagon’s cast-in-place concrete walls along with the installation of corrosion protection systems.
M.E: Your firm was founded in 1996. What do you attribute to your company’s longevity and market share?
O’Malley: Customer service and a distinct knowledge of our end product are the reasons why 80 percent of business comes from repeat clients. CPR prides itself on providing owners, engineers, architects, general contractors, facility managers, and plant engineers with cost-effective, quality service while executing repair projects in a safe, professional manner with minimal disruption to facility operation. Our commitment is to furnish clients with accurate solutions to complex restoration problems by providing the highest technical support offered by a contracting organization. Dedication to market leadership and innovation demand that CPR deliver to its customers a level of service and technical assistance that far exceeds industry standards. Based upon years of field experience and technical expertise, our approach to concrete restoration projects ensure our clients receive well-managed, on-schedule project completions.
M.E: How did the Aug. 23, 2011 earthquake in the Baltimore/D.C. area impact your business and your industry?
O’Malley: The earthquake aggravated a flurry of structural building defects which called for immediate evaluation and repair. Numerous structural engineering firms and repair contractors in the mid-Atlantic region where summoned by frantic property owners to assure that their structures were in fact safe. More notably, the Washington Monument in D.C. was seriously impacted by the tremor and still awaits the results of a tedious structural evaluation before re-opening. Preliminary reports indicate that a multi-million dollar restoration and strengthening project is on the horizon to preserve this aging landmark.
M.E: How has CPR’s collaboration with the Merrick School’s entrepreneurship center helped build the business?
O’Malley: CPR has partnered with students from the entrepreneurship center to conduct a thorough review of our corporate model in order to ascertain an accurate business valuation. The information provided by the group was instrumental in understanding our core competencies and developing a framework for our corporate statutes. The experience was an invaluable, inspirational opportunity for both the students and the members of our firm who participated.
M.E: Why did you choose to attend UB?
O’Malley: Legacy, flexibility, convenience, practicality, and economy all rolled into one. Back in the day, UB was home to my father and oldest sister, both UB law graduates. Dad received an undergraduate degree, J.D. and masters in taxation from UB; therefore, it was somewhat of an honor and privilege to attend his alma mater. Furthermore, UB provided me with flexibility and convenience by offering an urban campus setting which was easily accessible, the expediency of evening and weekend classes were ideal for a busy work and family schedule, and flexibility to explore both the theoretical and practical aspects of the business community with faculty who are well-respected academics and business professionals. Lastly, UB offered an affordable solution to obtain a graduate degree which allowed me to work, study, and raise a new family with little financial burden.
M.E: How has attending UB helped you in your career?
O’Malley: I would like to think that everything I have become today as a business professional is as a direct result of UB. UB transformed my character and molded me into a true entrepreneur and all that it personifies. This foundation of character and entrepreneurial spirit is what I took from UB at graduation, ideals that are deeply impressed in my heart, my mind and my actions. UB sculpted me into a well-rounded, intellectual, individual disciplined to conduct business both ethically and professionally. It provided me with real life practical enterprise experiences and embodied me with the tools to succeed in the business world.
M.E: What advice would you give to students who might want to pursue a career in your field?
O’Malley: Keep an open mind and consider all options. There are so many facets to explore within the construction industry, including marketing, sales, estimating, design, engineering, project management, IT, human resources, accounting, real estate development, and finance, to name a few. Through the years I found it very advantageous in having a technical engineering degree coupled with an M.B.A. The combination enhances the flavor of the characteristics of the business.
M.E: What's the one job-hunting secret you wish all students knew?
O’Malley: Seriously consider marketing yourself to small and mid-sized dynamic companies in lieu of large mundane corporations. Smaller firms typically give you the flexibility to personalize your role in the company by allowing you the liberty to explore the different facets of the business.
M.E: What personal goal have you set for yourself this year?
O’Malley: When I graduated from UB I had a daughter, Megan, who was four; two sons, James and Kyle, who were two and one respectively, and a corporation which was also in its infancy. Needless to say, the past 20 plus years have passed by like a blur. Building a business has literally consumed the vast majority of my time and attention. Fortunately I have a wife who embraced the challenging task of mentoring these three wonderful children into adulthood, enabling me to have the freedom to nurture the business into a viable entity. Therefore, a personal goal for this year is to give more of myself to my awe-inspiring family because without their unselfish support, strength, and encouragement these accomplishments would be meaningless.
M.E: What is the last book you read?
O’Malley: Who Moved My Cheese, for the 5th time this year. In today’s rigorous economy we all need to remind ourselves to keep the running shoes on and laced up and to continually search for that next opportunity.
M.E: What does your future look like?
O’Malley: The nation’s infrastructure is continually aging and deteriorating and hence repairs are inevitable. We specialize at rebuilding and breathing new life into the crumbling substructure of our nation’s façade. CPR is literally “Saving the Life of Concrete.”