At home with Dan Bagley

photo courtesy Dan Bagley

Dan Bagley found a way to thrive at home with Otto Baum – right where he likes it.

At the end of a busy workday, Dan Bagley will sometimes drive straight to the middle school gym in Washington, Ill., to watch his son’s basketball game. It’s a hectic life (he and his wife have three teenagers). But Bagley, the Restoration Division Manager for Otto Baum Company, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Otto Baum's Dan Bagley with his three kids
Dan and his wife keep a busy schedule with three teenagers.

Achieving a good work-life balance is not typically without sacrifices, but for Bagley, it was easy. He likes to be home, and his home is and always has been central Illinois – even when he was a young man starting his career in the much-different pace of Chicago.  

The call of construction

After starting college in engineering at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., Bagley felt drawn to construction despite having zero experience in the industry.

“I made the transition to construction because I always wanted to have a job where I wasn’t tied down to a desk every day,” he says. He ultimately graduated with a degree in construction and a minor in business and was offered a job at a Chicago general contracting firm right after graduation.

“I was told I would be on site at a hospital project doing remodeling,” he says. “So, I moved to Chicago, got an apartment near the hospital and was on site for 6 months. Then I was asked by the president of the company if I had any interest in getting involved with the restoration division, and at the time I had no idea what that even meant. The next thing you know, I’m in the office working for both the GC and the restoration side.”

Since Bagley started at Otto Baum, the restoration division has grown from around $2 to $3 million a year to a projected $25-30 million this year.

There was no space for an office for Bagley at the time, so they pushed a desk into the office of the Executive Vice President at the company’s restoration division, and called it good – which ended up a lucky occurrence.

“I learned so much just by shadowing him for that year, not only the trade side but the family side and the business side,” he says. “He’d take calls from his wife and most of the time, I was there and hearing business, personal, all kinds of calls. I learned a lot from him, and I respect that I got that opportunity.”

It was also a foray into restoration, which ended up being Bagley’s true calling. “There was already a great team in place on the restoration side, and we grew it to four times the size over a nine-year period. I started as an assistant project manager and then became a project manager, then a senior project manager and a VP over those nine years. I was working a lot, my wife was working, and we had our first child up there.”

Dan Bagley is Restoration Division Manager for Otto Baum in central Illinois
Bagley (left) entered college at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., originally thinking he wanted to be an engineer, but was quickly drawn to construction management.

The call home

When Bagley and his wife became pregnant with their second child in 2007, Bagley realized the work-life balance wasn’t sustainable, and he began planning a path back home. On one visit home, he started asking around about potential jobs.

One friend suggested a company named CORE Construction, so he drove by. For whatever reason, Bagley’s eye strayed toward the name on the door of another business in the same office building as CORE – Otto Baum Company Inc. He looked into it and realized they do masonry, site, civil and concrete work, as well as restoration. His plan suddenly glimmered with potential.  

Bagley scored an interview with Kurt Baum, Craig Baum, and Terry Baum, who were looking to expand the restoration side of the business – a forte Bagley had demonstrated in Chicago. His plan was happening.

Bagley and team at the World of Concrete Spec Mix 500 event
Bagley (front right) and team at the World of Concrete Spec Mix 500 event.

“When our second child was born, and I knew he was healthy, within a 4-week period, I resigned at the GC, we sold our Chicago area home, I took a new job near my hometown, and we moved into a new house in central Illinois.”

“They were the right place, right time for me,” Bagley says. “They were looking for a new leader for restoration, and they hired me as a division manager of restoration, which is a title I still have 17 years later.”

“Central Illinois is a lot more family-friendly, and the work-life balance is better than I was experiencing in Chicago. Otto Baum is a family business. It’s always family first,” he says. “Even before Covid, if you needed to work at home for family reasons, there was never a second guess or challenge to that. You have to have people you can trust who aren’t abusing that. It’s very family-friendly. I’m constantly looking at work-life balance and making sure others aren’t burning themselves out, that we’re living by the values of the company.”

Dan Bagley and his wife
When Dan and his wife were pregnant with their second child, they started planning a path back home to central Illinois.

For Bagley, living and working in central Illinois makes it easier to be as involved in family life as he desires. But there’s more to it than that – it’s the pace of life in general, a less competitive spirit at work, and a more laid-back atmosphere. That was no clearer than when Bagley came to interview with Otto Baum for the first time.

“In Chicago, I was in a shirt and tie every day,” he says. “When I came in to meet with Otto Baum, I showed up in a suit and tie, and Kurt, Craig, and Terry sat there in their sweatshirts and jeans and looked at me like, ‘What the heck are you wearing?’ It’s just a very casual, very relaxed setting. That was part of the draw for me.”

Otto Baum strategic sessions
Otto Baum's executive management team and spouses recently gathered in Texas for a strategic planning session.

Even with fewer members of the Baum family involved in the business each decade, there’s still a family atmosphere that gives Otto Baum a big advantage.

“There’s not a huge chain of command above me, or layers and layers of management,” he says. “We’re not very corporate.”

It’s that environment that Bagley says allowed him to fully commit to overseeing enormous growth of Otto Baum’s restoration division, and, in doing so, he helped transform the company’s reputation into a restoration contractor at a time when Otto Baum was primarily known for its work in concrete, masonry and civil.

“Back then, restoration was not a big thing,” he says. “When I started, I told Terry (Baum) that someday, we’d be known as a restoration company and that restoration would be the biggest division of the company, and he laughed.”

Bagley accepted that challenge and defeated it three years ago, when Otto Baum restoration notched the highest revenue of all four company divisions. Since Bagley began at the business, the restoration division grew from around $2 to $3 million a year to a projected $25-30 million this year.

Dan Bagley on a job site
Bagley says construction was the right fit for him because he always wanted a job where he wasn’t tied down to a desk every day.

Also during Bagley’s tenure, Otto Baum has grown all over the state of Illinois, plus Iowa and Indiana. Otto Baum today is one of the biggest bricklayer masonry companies in Illinois by the number of union manhours worked (including new masonry and restoration), and it ranks #10 on the 2023 ENR list for top masonry firms in the country.  

In a bit of an ironic twist for Bagley, future growth plans for Otto Baum restoration involve Chicago.

“In Chicago, you could have a multi-million-dollar job on every block, which is just due to the money and size of the buildings,” he says. “It’s very different coming to the central Illinois market. Within restoration, the growth now is in Chicago.”

Dan Bagley at work in Otto Baum's offices
The casual work atmosphere at Otto Baum was a big draw for Bagley, who was used to wearing a shirt and tie everyday in Chicago.

“We’re building a Chicago team with local foremen, a local general superintendent, and a regional manager. There is tremendous opportunity for a local team in Chicago, with the full support of our central Illinois office.”

For Bagley, part of enforcing the professional-personal balance that’s so important to him at Otto Baum means empowering others to experience the same thing.

“For awhile, we had a group of people that would travel for jobs, but in the last 10 years, that has really gone away,” he says. “People don’t want to travel as much. They don’t want a job out of town. I’m the same way. I want to be home every night, and I want to go to my kids’ sporting events. A lot of our foremen coach their kids. I don’t like to ask people to do something that I wouldn’t want to do. You’re not going to be successful if you put someone where they don’t want to be. We learned that and have grown from it.”


Hard Surface Care

Cleaning the Kauffman Center

When the Kansas City Chiefs played on Sunday Night Football earlier this year, the TV broadcast featured a shot of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City - a nod to the unique beauty and character of the building, which has punctuated the Kansas City skyline[…]

Kansas University's Budig Hall | Photo by Darcy Boyle

Hard Surface Care

Brightened limestone on a college campus

College campuses nationwide hold a bevy of aging masonry buildings, and a huge opportunity for restoration contractors. Kansas University in Lawrence (PROSOCO's headquarters) is no exception.  Budig Hall is the latest historic masonry building on KU's campus to undergo a multi-faceted restoration, including the cleaning of its exterior facade of[…]

Anchor Systems

Herald of helicals

John Montecalvo is on a mission to spread the good news about helical beaming and its ability to minimize life safety hazards and wall restoration costs.  Each year, our national building stock grows one year older and either one year closer to needing repair, or another year overdue for it.[…]

Concrete floor in warehouse. photo used with permission from Shutterstock

Concrete Flooring

Type 1L cement is everywhere – here’s what you need to know about it

Learn why it's so popular, how it's made and what product is best suited to densify it.   The materials we use to build are constantly changing with evolving technologies, availability of source ingredients, regulatory activities, architectural trends, and other factors. The construction industry is still learning about a relative[…]