Today’s Pour, Tomorrow’s Parking Garage
It’s 7:00 a.m., and the sun is just beginning to make its way over the San Francisco Bay. While the rest of the city sleeps, Dolan Concrete’s team has already sprung to life.
We’re standing just outside the heart of San Francisco, in the city of Brisbane, on what will soon become a five-story parking garage. It’s your classic California tech scene—a clean-cut urban business center speckled with palm trees and the sun glinting off the windows of surrounding office buildings.
But here, you don’t hear the bustle of the city’s ever-increasing tech workforce. Not yet, anyway. Instead, you hear the clink of metal on metal and the chug of engines roaring to life. A hammer pounding, the high-pitched beeping of a truck backing up, the crackle of a voice in a walkie-talkie.
You see the pillars of bare rebar and the silhouettes of workers on high platforms, their breath making white puffs in the frosty January air. From the corner of one building, hot neon sparks fly like miniature fireworks. The flash of bright orange and yellow construction vests are just about everywhere.
Everything is in motion here as Dolan’s team prepares for the morning’s concrete pour. Two trucks stand at the ready, along with another six on site, each holding 10-13 yards of concrete to begin work on the first floor ramp of the parking garage. By the end of the day, Dolan will pour a staggering 550 yards.
While today’s pour may seem to the layman just another one of Silicon Valley’s many construction projects, to the trained eye, the operation is a well-oiled machine born out of a rich 60-year legacy. It’s a testament to raising the bar year after year—to evolving and adapting with the industry while remaining true to core values. It is living proof that driving business success with innovation truly does stand the test of time.
The Tides of Change
With headquarters in Santa Clara, Dolan Concrete was founded in 1956 by Edward J. Dolan. In 1966, a young field laborer named Leo Gutierrez joined the company. His tenacity, integrity, and work ethic were quickly noticed by the executive team, and over the years he worked his way up. In fact, he later took ownership of the company, eventually passing it over to his son—also named Leo Gutierrez—who is now President. Leo’s brother, Willie Gutierrez, is also an integral member of the team and has led the field operation for nearly 30 years as Operations Manager.
Rounding out this three-generation success story, Leo Jr.’s sons, Gabriel and Joseph Gutierrez, also currently work at Dolan as a financial controller and operations supervisor, respectively. The two work closely with Dolan Concrete’s executive team including CFO Benjamin Newsom and Vice President Joel Middleton who have also helped positively transform the company over the last few decades.
Admittedly, much has changed since the early days of Dolan. Where apricot, pear, and cherry orchards were once the norm, today Santa Clara is one of the central hubs of commercial, institutional, and residential structures supporting the Bay Area’s booming tech industry.
“Now everything is much more complex—not just because of the industry, but also because where we’ve grown to as a business. Being able to combat that change with good information and good systems has helped us get to this point.”
Leo Sr. notes that the construction industry has also undergone dramatic shifts since he first began his career. “Now workers have technology and machinery to help them do the work faster and easier,” he reflects. “Back then, we used wheelbarrows. Pouring 40 or 50 yards used to be a big job.’
However, over the years Dolan Concrete learned that innovation and change were vital to surviving—and thriving—as a concrete contractor in the Bay Area. Implementing construction management software and staying relevant with the latest machines, tools, and practices have not only enabled them to stay competitive, but it has also positioned them as a leading contractor in the area. Notably, with today’s software solutions that connect the field and the office in real time, the team is able to work more efficiently, productively, and safer than ever before.
“Over the 16 years that I’ve worked here, a lot has changed,” notes Gabriel. “Now everything is much more complex—not just because of the industry, but also because where we’ve grown to as a business. Being able to combat that change with good information and good systems has helped us get to this point.”
Leo Sr. adds, “You have to change with the times. If you’re not using technology, if you’re not going paperless, then you’ll be on your way out.”
Putting People First
In spite of the transformation, Dolan Concrete still operates from the very same principles it was founded on: quality, value, and integrity. A brief conversation with any of the three Gutierrez generations, and you’ll hear these principles echoed from each.
“They are our company’s core values,” Gabriel explains. “But they’re also the values for how we operate as both a business and a family.”
He explains that he, his father, and grandfather all started their career in the field, so they “know what it takes,” giving them the empathy and understanding necessary to fully support their field teams.
“I care about the people who work here, and I want them to succeed. I want to put the right people in the right positions so that we’re successful—so that 100 years from now, Dolan Concrete is still going to be around and they’re still going to be one of the top subcontractors in the Bay Area,” says Leo Jr.
Leo Sr. adds, “When you show people you care, they’re going to feel good and they’re going to be loyal to the company.”
It’s because of this deep commitment to their employees, and their clients, that Dolan Concrete has seen the success it has for over a half-century. In fact, it has helped the company grow from a small operation of 12 to a large organization staffed with over 100 workers in the field and 20 in the office.
“When you show people you care, they’re going to feel good and they’re going to be loyal to the company.”
“Dolan will continue to make sure employees have everything they need to be successful—not only in the field but also in their day-to-day lives. We’ll continue to be there for them and provide them with gainful employment so they can continue to support their families because that ultimately supports our community,” says Gabriel.
The Future is Bright for Dolan Concrete
As Gabriel looks to the future of Dolan Concrete, he notes his deep ties to the business.
“This company has always been a part of my life. My father and my grandfather both worked here. I have a tremendous amount of history here, so this company means more to me than just a job—I’m hoping to leave a legacy behind.”
But leaving a legacy in an evolving industry means growing as a company never stops. It means leading by example and not just meeting the standard, but setting it. As a “Groundbreaker”—that is, as an innovator and pioneer—that’s exactly what Dolan has done.
“To me, a Groundbreaker is simple,” explains Gabriel. “It’s derivative of ‘breaking ground,’ and that can mean actual dirt or a concept. When you’re breaking ground in a new conceptual space, you’re there for the first time and you’re taking challenges for the first time. For those reasons, Dolan Concrete is a Groundbreaker. We’re taking steps to separate ourselves from other contractors and to break new ground not only with the types of work that we’re doing but also with the technology we’re using.”
As a Groundbreaker, Dolan’s team has made it a point to never settle for the status quo. Even after three generations, they still strive to enhance their capabilities and processes—a value originating from Leo Sr. himself.
“I always give my best, and I’m always trying to do better. That’s why I’m still here,” says Leo Sr., noting that sometimes he still goes to jobsites to inspect the work. “People think that at 80, you can’t even move or do this or that. Well, I’m 80, and I’m still here.”
Even today, his stories are markedly infused with the spirit of the American dream: hard work, humility, and integrity. It’s something that has become woven into the general fabric of the business—and something that will likely continue to drive the company’s growth in the future.
Even after three generations, they still strive to enhance their capabilities and processes—a value originating from Leo Sr. himself.
“We no longer do patios, driveways, and sidewalks,” he reflects. “Now we do buildings that have 50, 60, or 80 floors. It makes me feel really good to be able to say that we started with sidewalks and now,” he gestures to the sky, “Look where we are.”
To learn how Dolan Concrete leveraged construction management software to continue driving business success, read the case study here.