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Making Romance Work at Work

During Valentine’s Day, Cupid mischievously wields his bow and arrow, making unsuspecting individuals who fall head over heels in love with each other. It’s the time of the year when romance fills the air. However, as the couples in Hawaii’s construction industry featured here attest, falling in love may be easy, but staying in love takes work, especially when you work with your significant other!

Dale Sakamoto Yoneda & Ryan Yoneda

Dale Sakamoto Yoneda and Ryan Yoneda., have been married for 24 years, and worked together at S & M Sakamoto, Inc. for 14 of them when Ryan joined the Sakamoto family business in 2009.  Their strengths complement each other, giving the couple a competitive edge in the marketplace. They show up on worksites and see different things through two sets of eyes to provide keen analyses of what needs to be done on their projects.

However, that kind of teamwork takes an ongoing investment in the relationship.

“When Ryan joined the family business, he had to learn all about safety, which is his area of responsibility,” Dale recalled. “It was boots on ground, just like I had to learn about the general contracting business when I first started.”

“We work well together, but that doesn’t mean we don’t argue or disagree with each other. We look for a mutual platform for the betterment of employees of the company.”

- Dale Sakamoto Yoneda

Ryan quickly got up to speed on safety in the construction business and the couple has had a successful relationship — on and off the job. It has been a good partnership. Ryan spends time in the field, while Dale spends time tending to the business aspects of running the company

But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine for the couple.

“We work well together, but that doesn’t mean we don’t argue or disagree with each other,” Dale said. “In the end, they both agree that their decisions are made based on a mutual platform for the betterment of the employees of our company.”

Ryan agreed. “We know when we’re getting angry with each other. We cool down and then talk about it later.”

“We figure it out,” Dale added.

“I’m the one who listens,” Ryan said. “And I’m the patient one,” Dale added with a big smile.

“Couples working together is not for everyone,” Ryan said. “You shouldn’t sacrifice your marriage or your relationship.”

As in sync as Dale and Ryan may be, they know their limitations. You won’t find them side-by-side on the golf course. “He won’t golf with me,” Dale says with a laugh. “I don’t blame him, I am terrible at golf!”

Stan & Rhoda Calma

Another couple who knows the secret of working together is Stan and Rhoda Calma, who both work at HONBLUE. Stan has been with HONBLUE since 1995 and currently serves as Business Development Manager, and Rhoda joined the company in 1999 and is now an Account Manager.

Cupid took the opportunity to aim one of his arrows at a chance meeting between the couple in August 1999. (They eventually married on Valentine’s Day, which marks their anniversary.)

Rhoda dropped something off to her friend at The ColorSource, the HONBLUE’s downtown store, and her friend encouraged her to apply for a job opening. Her interview turned out to be the first time she met Stan.

That was the beginning of their romance AND working relationship.

“I like having my wife with me because work is already my second home and it is comforting to know that Rhoda is here if I need someone to confide in when I am having a bad day.”

- Stan Calma

They immediately felt a connection with each other and experienced great advantages of working together.

“We can help bring the stress level down from work while having lunch,” Stan said. “Also, we save on paying for gas since we work at the same office.”

Besides the practical benefits, their partnership goes much deeper. “I like having my wife with me because work is already my second home and it is comforting to know that Rhoda is here if I need someone to confide in when I am having a bad day,” Stan said.

Rhoda agreed. “There are the advantages — carpooling, eating lunch together, and being there for one another in tough work situations…I too have my bad days at work and am appreciative that Stan is there to talk to.  I mostly appreciate Stan’s knowledge and experience at HONBLUE.  He provides great insight and troubleshooting strategies in difficult situations.”

However, there are downsides to couples working together.

“As couples know, there can be disagreements that may affect our moods during the work day that can sometimes make the work day just a little more stressful than it is,” Stan said. “Love is a choice. Make a choice to love your wife or significant other. None of us are perfect. Forgive each other right away, then love again right away!”

“It took many years and a lot of hard work to figure out the right balance in our relationship.  I honestly would not suggest couples work together,” Rhoda said. “A relationship is like your own personal garden.  The more you take care of it and add what makes you happy, the more you will enjoy spending time in it.”

Steve & Kaleo Baginski

Kaikor Construction Group, Inc. understands the value of couples working together on the job. It started with company founder Grandison "Buck" Allen and his wife Kay, and then former company President Garrett Sullivan and his wife Janice, and now current President and CEO Steve and his wife Kaleo Baginski.

“Since we spend 80% of our time at work, rather than be with a ‘work husband’ or a ‘work wife,’ it should be with our actual spouse,” said Kaleo, who has been the Office Manager of Kaikor Construction for the past 17 years.

“Since we spend 80% of our time at work, rather than be with a ‘work husband’ or a ‘work wife,’ it should be with our actual spouse.”

- Kaleo Baginski

Steve and Kaleo didn’t meet on the job, but have been soulmates for years. Their relationship started out as friends. When Steve moved from Vermont to Hawaii after college, he and Kaleo’s brother were workout buddies. Steve and Kaleo got to know each other at family gatherings when Kaleo was visiting home in Hawaii. She had been working as a social worker in Seattle at the time.

Eventually, her love Hawaii prompted her to move back home permanently, which means the two could spend more time getting to know each other. Steve had been a family friend and had shown he was respectful to her parents, and this laid a solid foundation for their relationship to blossom.

In the early 1990s, when a front desk position at Kaikor Construction became available, Kaleo, who had been looking to move on from social work, took the job.

The temporary position lasted almost a year, but it was long enough for Kaleo to make a positive impression that when the company had a vacancy for an office manager 15 years later, Garrett Sullivan told Steve to ask Kaleo to rejoin the company on a permanent basis.

Kaleo said the only downside of working together is that there isn’t a need to share what is happening in each other’s work worlds since they know all about what’s happening at work. Steve and Kaleo have cautioned about the need to set boundaries to avoid discussing work during off hours and on weekends, as much as possible.

Other than those concerns, working together overall has been win-win decision for the Baginskis and Kaikor Construction.

Steve and Kaleo have cautioned about the need to set boundaries to avoid discussing work during off hours and on weekends, as much as possible.

When Kaleo first joined the company, Steve had been spending about 90% of his time in the field with operators, including time on the neighbor islands, while Kaleo, with her comfortable, approachable style, was able to build relationships with those in the office and better understand their challenges and needs.

As Garrett transitioned into a consulting role, Kaleo saw the need for Steve to make himself more available to the Kaikor Construction team and to make time for team-building lunches and other company events a priority to effectively lead the company. Steve took Kaleo’s advice to heart and this helped to create a strong sense of camaraderie in the company.

Having a husband-wife team offers other advantages. The couple can enjoy lunch together and can be more responsive to the needs of company employees.

We hope you enjoyed this special feature! Comments or feedback? Send an email to communications@gcahawaii.org.

Mahalo!