The RQ Flywheel Newsletter | Spring 2019
Message from George
One astute person that works at RQ recently mentioned to me how important it is to remember where we came from. That was a really good reminder for me. As we are in the process of designing and building out our new office space, we are going to move from good to great facilities. In fact, I consider where we are today as a great place to call home. However, we have just out grown this building. I have been reflecting on the success we are having in getting and executing work, and adding so many great people. This company started in overflow space of an insurance office. So many times we have had days where I wasn’t sure how we would survive the crisis at hand.
I compare that to today, where we are one of the envy’s of our industry, moving into an office that will be the equal of a beautiful DPR office. Our backlog of work exceeds half a billion dollars and we are profitable. One of the pillars that helped build this company and was here from the beginning is Mitch Tharaldson, who recently retired (make that semi-retired). If we are to remember where we come from, we have to remember what Mitch has meant to this company. This Flywheel is about Mitch.
George H. Rogers
PRESIDENT AND CEO
Tributes to Mitch
I remember when I first started working at RQ, I needed to get quotes for a facility upgrade and wasn’t too familiar with vendors in the area. Someone recommended that I go talk to Mitch, because he always knew a guy. Doesn’t matter what you need, he knows a guy. And sure enough, he gave me three names. Little did I know, that rather than calling the customer service level person, I was talking to the owners. So things got done fast! As I have gotten to know Mitch over the years, I have discovered that he actually DOES have a super-power! Some might call it the gift of gab, but I have seen first-hand that Mitch has a gift for building genuine relationships. He takes an interest in each individual, in their story, and in what’s going on with their family and business. He honestly cares and connects with people. And it’s a super-power because he manages to do this while moving a mile a minute and occasionally talking on two phones! I don’t want to ruin his tough guy reputation, but the man has heart. How lucky we have been… to have his heart, his loyalty, and his endless energy here at RQ for so many decades! – Katy Ventre, RQ Construction
My name is Alex Hernandez. I’m the Vice President, District General Manager, for Cosco Fire Protection. I first met Mitch in 1990 when I was sent to Camp Pendleton to do a job walk as a subcontractor for RQ Construction. When I arrived on base, I was told to ask around for a Superintendent named “Mitch”. I asked around and finally asked this one guy “do you know where I can find Mitch”. They guys says, “What do you want him for? What’s this about? Why do you ask?”. I was surprised by this guy’s interrogation so I told him I was” Alex from Cosco Fire Protection”. He smiled and said, “Oh! In that case I’m Mitch!”.
During the first few months working together Mitch and I didn’t really get along too well. I thought he was a little arrogant and acted like he “knew it all”. It turns out he thought the same about me! After working together we realized we were both very similar and began to rely on each other for guidance and advise. In addition to building a solid professional relationship, we began meeting outside of work with our wives and family.
One of my favorite memories with Mitch was when he was being thrown a surprise birthday party. He had wanted to get together the weekend of the party but I made up a story that I was going to be in Los Angeles for the Rams game and I was sorry we couldn’t get together. I played it up really big and promised to tell him all about the game when I got back in town.
As I drove up to his house for the surprise party and tried to find parking, up drove Mitch behind me. I was at a loss for words. I just looked up at him and said “YAW!!” The cat was out of the bag- but the party was great!
I have been lucky to have this professional and personal friendship with Mitch for over 18 years. I wish him all the success in the world. Congratulations my Friend. – Alex Hernandez, Cosco Fire Protection
I first met Mitch in the late 1980’s. At that time, Mitch was working for TMAD Engineers. For those who don’t know, weren’t in the design/construction industry back then, or simply weren’t alive then, the “T” in TMAD Engineers stands for “Tharaldson” (Uncle Leo). Apparently, Uncle Leo’s only requirement for hiring a family member was that family member could not have been previously convicted of a crime:
Uncle Leo (to young Mitch): “Before I hire you, I need to ask, have you ever been convicted of a crime?”
Mitch: “Convicted? Convicted???…uh…um… let me think… no… not convicted”
Uncle Leo: “Welcome to the team, son!”
Mitch: “Groovy man!”
At that time, I was a young electrical engineer with Randall Lamb. Mitch and I crossed paths on a few common projects and we developed a professional relationship. We also had some industry friends in common. Back then, one of those friends hosted a regular pot luck and poker evening at his house in Mira Mesa. It was a fun group that included kids, girlfriends, and wives. Through those pot luck and poker parties our professional relationship evolved into a friendship, at least on Mitch’s part. Which is to say, Mitch continuously owed me money from covering his poker losses.
Some years later, Mitch and I crossed paths again. By that time, he was working at a General Contracting firm called Rogers Quinn. I’m not sure what ever happened to that gutty little company. As for myself, because I can hold a job, I was still with Randall Lamb. Mitch I started working together on a regular basis in the early 2000’s. By then, Mitch was working for, yet another company, RQ Construction (I am not sure which relative of Mitch’s owns that company). Mitch reached out to me to start providing electrical engineering services for RQ projects. I believe that Mitch’s request was sincere, purely professional, and it had nothing to do with the compounding interest on his poker losses.
During the last 20 or so years Mitch and I have enjoyed a great professional relationship and friendship. Randall Lamb has been an engineering partner on many RQ projects during that time. As with any great business relationship, there have been many shared successes and there have been the occasional conflicts/issues. Mitch is a true Professional and Gentleman. Mitch freely shares the successes with his design/construction partners and he always resolves the conflicts/issues with professionalism and class.
Mitch – Thank you for including me in you professional life and as an engineering partner on the RQ Construction team. Most importantly, thank you for being a friend all these years. You are on to the next season in life. I know that you will continue to be energetic, engaged, and adventurous in this next season. Enjoy retirement! You have earned it.
All the best! – Gary Eastley, Randall Lamb Associates, Inc.
Mitch, Mitch, Mitch… Oh what can I say, or shouldn’t I say, is the better statement! I have been lucky to have gotten to know Mitch well over the last few years. Mitch was a mentor, leader, problem solver and most of all, he was someone I could confide in without hesitation. Mitch always showed genuine interest in your life when you were with him, no matter what fire was going on around him. Having spent hours with Mitch while traveling, you get to see this not only happens at the office, but outside of the office too.
There are a few of what I like to call the old school construction workers in this industry. Those who have been around before the time of mankind, I mean computers. There are only a few left who are out there, who have been there done that. Mitch was one of those. One who transformed himself slowly into the man who we know today. The funny thing is that Mitch can recall almost every single story, every single detail. But still cannot figure out how to restart his computer.
One of the biggest things I take away from Mitch is how much he valued people and relationships. I was lucky to have been able to go to some meetings involving Mitch and some of our sub-contractors. It was there I witnessed the relationship that Mitch had fostered with the Subs. It was genuine. Sometimes you can tell right away, read the body language when people are just being friendly but not really friends. This was different, there was a true connection during these engagements. It was interesting to watch and listen like a fly on a wall. But of course, I was no fly because Mitch engaged me into the conversation right away, because that was Mitch. Always about others making sure we all were being part of the conversation. – Rich Ellinger, RQ Construction
A few people make an impression on you that you don’t forget. Mitch is someone that cares about each and every friend he has. I have learned a lot from him.
– Hung Nguyen, SMR Structural Engineers
The most memorable thing about Mitch is that he always took over the conversations: “Mitchified”. One day, while he was at my cubicle, he spent 10 minutes on an on about something, and then he asked me what I thought. I told him the only thing that came to mind was that he was a verbal bully not allowing anyone to get a word in. He had this shocked look as though I stabbed him in the chest with a sharp knife. He went away for awhile but came back like a hurt dog wanting to know why I thought that. After a long conversation, he has been like the best pal ever. That was almost 10 years ago. – Carolyn Harper, RQ Construction
As I get older, or let’s say more mature, I find myself reflecting more on my many blessings and one of the biggest ones is friendships! When we were asked to write down a memorable moment with Mitch I couldn’t just single out one or two because every time I spent any time with him it was memorable. From the times on the job, in the office, at retreats, on the golf course or personal projects the time I spent with Mitch was always enjoyable and I treasure our friendship of over 28 years! To this day I still do not know what Mitch’s official job title at RQ was…he was our secret weapon, but I know that he brought huge value in all that he did for the company over the years and is irreplaceable. His work ethic and willingness to help in any capacity was truly inspirational and when I grow up I want to be just like “Mitch”! Love yah Mitch…enjoy your next chapter in life!Sam Kirchmeier
My fondest memories of Mitch were from our time on the basketball court over lunch in the Bonsall and Carlsbad offices. Honestly, I’m not sure Mitch understood the rules of the game. In some ways, it was half basketball, half wrestling on the court, but we always had good fun when playing because that’s what it’s all about: having fun and building camaraderie together. I know for sure that I got hurt more with Mitch on the basketball court than I did in my soccer career! In fact, I have an uncle who visited us at the old RQ office in Bonsall back in the day and played basketball with us…and Mitch. Let’s just say, he refused to get on the court again after playing with Mitch. Ha. Thanks for the fun times, Mitch!Mack Rogers
To pick a fond memory with Mitch is challenging as they are infinite on both a professional and personal level for me. However, one of the most hilarious and warm your soul relationships I’ve witnessed Mitch develop and foster is with my oldest son Alex. In the past few years during Mitch’s travels to the Pacific NW, he would always schedule an evening of his trip to either have dinner at our house or take my entire family out for a meal. It was always exciting to let Alex guess when asked, “Guess who’s coming to town this week?” His face always lit up and immediately he would shriek “MITCH!!!” When we would go out to eat Alex would always want to sit next to Mitch and share ice cream with him. On one visit, my wife and I had been having trouble that week with Alex refusing to hold hands in parking lots. However on this night, he marched right over to his pal Mitch, and held hands with no questions asked. I’m not sure if Mitch knows I snapped this photo, but I couldn’t resist.
I’m not sure if Mitch truly understands how many people he has influenced. He has taught many silent lessons simply in the way he conducts himself as a genuine and compassionate person. He has left an impressionable mark on all of us here at RQC, and his legacy will carry on indefinitely. I could not be happier for Mitch and Pam as they enjoy this next phase of their lives together.Brent Swanson
By: Eric Taylor
It was the wild, wild, west. Mitch Tharaldson with an electrical background found himself trying to help a brand-new niche DoD general contractor get off the ground. The GC was called Rogers-Quinn Construction, affectionately known now as RQ. Mitch was there when RQ won its first Navy project. Today RQ is the largest Navy contractor in the world. When Mitch started, design-build wasn’t even a thing. Today RQ is a design-builder of significant notoriety with the largest architectural staff in all of North County San Diego. At the beginning, Mitch and company sounded like Dr. Evil, chasing contracts of $1 miiiiiiiillion dollars. Today our average pursuit makes that sound as ridiculous as when Dr. Evil ransomed it. RQ started with a little family housing job. Today we are wrapping up a new Navy Seals base. Quite the bookends for a career.
If you asked Mitch what has changed over the years at RQ he would tell you, “Gosh, everything.” We’ve gotten smarter and smarter, as have the sophistication of the projects we now win and execute. But if you pushed him on his answer, he’d have to admit that not everything has changed. From those very first days it has been consistent that RQ has filled its halls with people who care about people. “I love the people here” is the number one answer given to the standard onboarding question “Why do you work here?” asked by new employees. It’s been the number one answer the past 12 years I’ve been around. Mitch, a founder and once owner of RQ, helped forge that into the DNA of this place long before I (or most any of us) ever got here.
When we were sitting around the table having breakfast over Christmas, George asked Mitch what kinds of things he’d be willing to continue to do for RQ even in retirement. His answer was classic Mitch: “Whatever you guys want or need.” That is the kind of guy Mitch was and is. A whatever-you-want-or-need kind of guy. RQ needed help in the recent past overseeing a unique project at Andros Island, a place we had to Google to even know where that was. Mitch volunteered to go over. I more recently was spouting off about my family’s garage door that wouldn’t shut. Mitch volunteered to come over. Those two examples encapsulate for me just what it means to be the whatever-you-want-or need kind of guy that Mitch is. Andros was RQ work. My garage wasn’t RQ work. But Mitch popped over on his way home because I am RQ family and Mitch has always gladly cared about his family. Andros or my house, it’s all the same. He’s willing to do whatever the RQ family wants or needs, on or off the clock.
Imagine a world where we all had the same attitude as Mitch. Where we all looked after the interests of each other and not just our own interest. Where we weren’t so concerned about clocks. You want to talk about what has really driven RQ apart from our competitors? You want to know what has taken us from a single Navy contract to the biggest Navy contractor in the world? It is this kind of Mitch-attitude. Only this kind of attitude can generate the selflessness required to result in genuine teamwork, and genuine teamwork in this industry is what is required to accomplish special things. To make him feel better about reading this I will admit Mitch isn’t perfect and I don’t mean to paint that picture. After all, none of us are. But what is your life perspective? How do you view the nature of your work and workplace? Is business just a means to profit and paychecks? Or is business a place of community where we can support each other and serve others? Mitch has always made RQ a great place to come because, flawed as he and the rest of us might be, he looks at it as a community to share life…and work… with. I/we thank you, Mitch, for your years of service to RQ. We thank you for the journey between bookends you helped bring us through. And more than anything, we thank you for your caring attitude making genuine teamwork and special results possible. You’ve woven a DNA into us that looks to outlive us all. What a trail you’ve blazed!