Many companies talk about diversity, but Everett Collier and David Ostrom live it. They have to: Their San Francisco company, Collier Ostrom (Big50 2000), has experienced a major demographic shift that is having an impact on remodelers everywhere. In short, the largely white, male industry is getting old. And it needs immigrants, minorities, and women.
Collier addressed the issue head-on in March, when he became president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). In his acceptance speech he challenged his peers to look around the room, and asked: “How many people of color do you see? How many women do you see? The NARI of the future will look very different than it does today, as will this country and the remodeling profession.” As part of its strategic plan, NARI aims to better meet the needs of minority remodelers.
Both the association and the industry might take their lead from Collier Ostrom. The company has long had women carpenters and ethnic minorities on staff, and its subcontractors are largely Hispanic and Chinese. “I don't think we make a conscious effort at diversity,” Ostrom says. “We just don't have anything that stops us from hiring anybody who has the ability.”
“We look for skills and attitude,” adds Collier, who has found immigrants often harder working than “some of our fellow compatriots who have been Americans for a long time.”
Word-of-mouth is one way Collier Ostrom finds good workers — Hispanic employees often refer jobs to friends or relatives. The company also uses temporary labor providers such as CLP (www.clp.com), to find legal, pre-screened employees.
Besides employing non-Caucasian workers, Collier Ostrom supports them, paying for employees to attend English classes on company time. And the two owners are brushing up their Spanish skills and are mindful of using other languages when they can.
Above all, Collier and Ostrom strive to be like a family to their employees. “Culture and family are important to immigrants,” Ostrom says. “That's a natural for us.”