Vince Gutekanst and Joe Van Oosbree joined Clune Construction early in their careers. Both have risen through the ranks, and now co-lead Clune’s Chicago office and Midwest Region. With the Chicago office also home to Clune’s headquarters, Vince and Joe agree there are unique benefits and challenges that are part of their day-to-day that might not be seen in other regions. They also deeply appreciate the Midwest work ethic and its large pool of world class trade partners. And if you ask either of them about their dream project, neither will hesitate with an answer.
What is unique about Chicago construction compared to other markets?
Vince: The market in Chicago is very competitive. Right now, it’s probably the most competitive market among all of our regions. It’s definitely challenging, there is very stiff competition.
Joe: One thing that I see as unique to Chicago is our very established base of owners, general contractors and partners. We have a really good network and it’s very strong. When we go into some other emerging markets that are witnessing a building boom, various partners may not be as experienced or sophisticated. Chicago has always had world-class builders and tradespeople. So unlike other markets where they’re having an influx of activity, Chicago is so established. This makes a lot of our work different from the perspective of the quality, timing, and really everything. The expectations are so high in this market because of the resources we have available to us.
Vince: When people talk about the Midwest work ethic, there really is something to that. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with the other markets that we operate in. But the really great craftspeople and trade partners in this area are what make the Midwest work ethic very apparent.
Joe: Also, in comparison to our other markets, aside from New York, Chicago has a main business district where you see an influx of tradespeople getting off the train downtown each morning. So when I talk about being established, I also mean that there’s such a concentrated amount of construction going on within a mile area in the Loop. When you go to DC and LA it’s a little bit more spread out, so the subcontracting base is geographical. In Chicago, they’re all working in a centrally located area.
Both of you started at Clune early in your careers. How does it feel now to watch new talent you’ve brought on rise through the ranks?
Vince: To me it’s pretty exciting. I started here 23 years ago, and it’s been really neat to work with people like Joe who have come up within the company. There’s been a lot of change. And from my perspective, all for the good. I think it’s all a positive for the company.
Joe: One of the things that is exciting right now is to be able to watch people start their careers with internships and entry-level positions, and then see them move up in the company. I can empathize with those who are just starting out – what they’re going through, some of their stress and some of the things they may be thinking. I’ve been in their shoes at one point in my career at Clune.
Has there been any type of project that we’ve been awarded, or would there be any future type of project where you want to say “Drop everything I want to be part of the project team. “
Vince: Kirkland and Ellis. I did their space when they moved into 300 N. LaSalle over 10 years ago, and I was excited when they started talking this past year about moving. When we did that original job, it was the largest project we had ever completed. And here they are again as a repeat client we’ve been servicing all these years. It’s not only me. We’ve had a lot of people service that account every step of the way. From the original project team that we had over at 300 N LaSalle, to everybody who’s carried the torch along the way. It’s been fantastic. It probably was one of my proudest moments to be associated with that job originally. And then to be chosen as the GC on Kirkland’s next project – now that’s one of my proudest moments as well.
Joe: For me, a project that I did drop everything for was the Chicago Cubs office. When we were awarded the project and we got the announcement to the Chicago staff, I walked into Dave Hall’s office (Dave was the President in Chicago at the time) and I said, I don’t care if I have to work weekends and nights – I want to be the Project Manager for the Chicago Cubs office. And he made it happen. As a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan, having access behind the scenes at Wrigley was incredible – I got to meet Theo Epstein, and Jed Hoyer. I was in construction meetings with them. I got to tour the club house before the World Series, before any of the players had seen it. There were just some neat things on that project. That by far was the coolest experience for me at Clune.
Vince: Didn’t we go there? We toured it. Kyle Schwarber was in the clubhouse and they kept telling us not to look at him.
Joe: Yeah. It was 2016. I remember because they ended up winning the World Series that year. And we got to tour the club house. They told us there was a player in there that was rehabbing, and they wanted us to give him his privacy. They said none of the other players had seen the new club house. So we were walking by this room with glass walls. I turn my head and Kyle Schwarber was sitting feet away from me on an exercise bike. And they said “don’t look.” I was thinking “Come on. How am I supposed to not look?” He had hurt his knee, and he was rehabbing at the time. And then later he ended up coming back and playing a big role in winning the World Series for them. It was one of those surreal moments, and we were all whispering to each other, “Oh, my God! It’s Kyle Schwarber sitting like two feet from us.”
Oh, and in the future… as soon as we open our Wisconsin office, and win Lambeau – I’m the project manager on Lambeau. Just remember that.
Vince: Fair enough.
What is your favorite restaurant or bar in Chicago?
Vince: That’s a tough one. I have to say one of my favorites is EJ’s which is up in the Northern Suburbs. But there’s so many good choices in Chicago. It’s hard to choose just one. Big Star is a great summer place for me. Chicago Cut’s always been a classic staple I like to go to also.
Joe: If I was going to go for more casual food, there’s a Korean, taco, barbeque place called Del Seoul in the Lincoln Park area. I love the fish tacos there. They’re amazing. We go there often and pick food up. And on the rare occasions we get to do a fancy dinner, there’s a place near my house called Gather. It’s a farm-to-table restaurant.
What sports do you like to watch or play?
Vince: I love running, being outdoors, fishing and golf. Anything to do with the outdoors really. As for golf, I’m not very good at it, but I really enjoy playing it.
Joe: I love the Cubs, Packers and Wisconsin Badgers. I grew up in Wisconsin, so Badgers and Packers is the natural and I love them. And the Cubs, it’s family connections, plus WGN which broadcasted Cubs games in Madison when I was growing up. Milwaukee networks didn’t bring over the Brewers games there, so I became a huge Cubs fan at an early age.
I also play softball and basketball in some old-man leagues. I like golf, but I don’t get to play it very much.
If Clune could open an office anywhere, regardless of the market, where would you pick?
Joe: Madison, Wisconsin. You can see my proposal. I renew it every two years. Its home. There are a few markets, I think Columbus, Louisville and Atlanta make a lot of sense for Clune to go into. Or at least to look at to see if there’s an opportunity there. We have good subcontractor relationships in these areas, so we could start to get a foothold and develop. But I would personally love Madison, Wisconsin because its home.
Vince: I think Atlanta or the Carolinas – North Carolina would be pretty cool. I think there’s opportunity there. But someplace where I would like to have an office because I just like the location? My favorite place is the Florida Keys. I don’t think there is much of a market down there for us, but it’s one of my favorite place to go in the country.
Joe: I’m going to revise mine. I was thinking too realistic. Now that I think about it more, Ireland would be awesome. I would love to open an office in Ireland. I’m sure it’s been thought of. But I could see myself living and working in Ireland. So I’m changing my answer.
What are the challenges or advantages of being the heads of the region where Clune’s corporate headquarters is based?
Vince: Chicago’s the headquarters, but we’ve grown so much that we are also a region. And yes, the headquarters is here, and that comes with its own challenges, but it also comes with benefits. It’s nice to have a direct connection to Dave and Tom. It’s nice to have that flexibility and open-door policy with those guys. You can walk right in and bounce ideas off of them, or get their feedback and input on challenges. There’s definitely more pros than cons, that’s for sure.
Joe: As Vince says we are a region, and Dave, Ben and Tom do treat Chicago like any other office. But on the personal side, in Chicago, you can see Dave in the kitchen, so you’re able to chat with him or Tom about their families. We also have National Marketing, and IT, and all of those corporate support systems here in Chicago. So we have more of the casual, familiar relationships with the people in these departments. Businesswise we keep Chicago and headquarters separate. But we probably do know the corporate departments a little better, just because of proximity.
Vince: To Joe’s point of proximity, it’s fun because we’re able to walk up to the Corporate Communications team and ask about a campaign they’re working on. We get the opportunity to learn more about the day-to-day of other regions that we might not have otherwise known if we didn’t have the corporate teams in Chicago. There definitely is pressure with our office also being the headquarters, but it’s more of a benefit than anything.
What is your proudest moment so far at Clune?
Vince: Getting to work with Joe (laughs). No seriously, my proudest would be my evolution of becoming President of the Midwest Region. Being here 23 years, I’ve grown through the ranks. Although I didn’t start out as an Intern, this is only my third job since I got out of college. And I have to say, being appointed President, and seriously getting the chance to work with Joe and growing in the office, and now managing the office is my proudest accomplishment.
Joe: I wouldn’t say there is a one single moment. But one of the things that I’ve often reflected on, has been how unbelievably thrilling it is to look around and see team members that we interviewed years ago as Interns. Now they’re leaders on projects. And when I have the time to reflect on the teams that I’ve helped build and have been a part of, this is when I realize this is such a phenomenal group of people that we get to work with every day. There’s so many that we’ve helped in their careers. But they’ve also helped us as well. I’m just so proud of the teams I’ve been a part of here.