Darin Anderson is the new chair of UCR Foundation
By Koren Wetmore
Whether he’s running and cycling in a world duathlon championship or building a business, Darin Anderson ’89, M.B.A. ’91, commits himself fully to the task.
In his 25-year career, he’s led mergers and acquisitions, launched two companies, and expanded his current firm twelvefold in a single decade. His achievements and community leadership spurred Ernst & Young to honor him as its 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year for Orange County and the Inland Empire.
While his success formula includes familiar ingredients such as persistence, skill, and hard work, his secret sauce boils down to one thing: relationships. “You can achieve something on your own, but when you do it with people you know and trust, the journey is more rewarding and the success even sweeter,” says Anderson, CEO of Salas O’Brien LLC, an engineering and architecture firm specializing in critical systems and energy-efficient, sustainable design.
For Anderson, such relationships span personal, academic, and professional arenas.
Recruited in his early 20s to work on mergers and acquisitions for a public company in Irvine, he was mentored by a venture capitalist who taught him that connecting and engaging people are vital to business success. “We did more than 15 acquisitions during a two-year period. I learned how to listen, to understand the psychology behind relationships, and to align people’s motivations, interests, and cultural fits,” he says.
While doing that work, Anderson also taught accounting courses at UCR. A friendship that started in the classroom soon led to his first chief financial officer position. Five years later, another UCR relationship — with fraternity brother Chuck O’Neal ’88 — steered him toward entrepreneurship. He and O’Neal grew and sold two companies together and, in 2006, purchased 85 percent of Salas O’Brien.
Working together with “an extraordinary team of talented people,” Anderson built the firm from 30 employees and $5 million in annual revenue to a company that boasts 300 employees and $65 million in revenue.
“I’m blessed to work with people I trust and believe in, and we’ve had an exciting run,” says Anderson. “I’m also blessed with a supportive wife, who in her own right is extremely accomplished.”
Out of gratitude for the relationships that led to their success, he and his wife started the Darin and Lori Anderson Foundation, which funds several social and educational programs. The couple also established the Ronald S. Anderson Memorial Engineering Scholarship at UCR in honor of Anderson’s father.
In addition, Anderson serves as the UCR Foundation Board chair. He was a recent chair of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the UCR School of Business, and has served on the Board of the UCR Alumni Association.
As foundation chair, he aims to apply his skills to support the university and to make a UCR education accessible to all. This includes fundraising to support scholarships and further research, and to grow support for existing campus programs.
“UCR tranforms lives every day. It did for me,” he says. “So I support the ambitious plans of the chancellor, especially the emphasis on affordable access for all students to advance the lives of all people.”