Great Projects, Great People
Commodore Builders is a mid-sized construction management firm in Boston, Massachusetts. Established fourteen years ago, Commodore Builders has grown a great deal since its inception as a result of its focus on client service and exceptional results.
From project conception and preconstruction through to project execution, closeout and warranty service, Commodore Builders offers construction management services of the highest quality. The company is defined by its take charge approach and its focus on CBRM: Commodore Builders Risk Management. This approach enables Commodore to anticipate and manage the risks inherent in construction. Commodore Builders collaborates with clients to ensure every client expectation is met and problems that arise are solved innovatively.
With the leadership, technical ability and drive of its founder, CEO Joe Albanese, and the team of senior executives he has assembled, Commodore Builders is thriving. Albanese, a former Commodore in the U.S. Navy, along with his project management team, has a thorough understanding of the construction industry and has positioned the firm for sustained success.
When asked why he started the company, Albanese replied, “I was at a particular stage in my life. I was about to turn forty; my kids were growing, and I didn’t want to stay where I was. I knew that if I wanted to try something new, on my own, that window of opportunity would be closing soon. I felt the imperative to seek that challenge, knowing that if I was successful, I would be fine and if it didn’t work out, I’d still have time to recover and get my kids through college.”
Albanese did not build Commodore Builders in the same way that other firms have evolved over the years. Rather than building the firm one job at a time, Albanese made a significant investment up front in hiring senior leaders to guide the firm. He refers to this approach as “a risk of sorts,” one that had a significant impact on the company’s growth, as the firm progressed rapidly.
Together with the senior executive team he assembled, Albanese established a company infrastructure that would sustain the firm through Albanese’s inevitable deployment to the Middle East in 2007. During his 10-month deployment, Commodore Builders grew from a $50 million firm to a $70 million firm. The company moved its headquarters, increased its reputation and earned a place on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies.
Albanese says, “Despite our growth, we maintain a fierce focus on client service, which has enabled us to build our business around repeat clients. As we always say, to be successful in this business, we need execution first and charm second. We need them both, and in that order.”
Each project Commodore undertakes comes with the hands-on involvement of senior level executives. Albanese says there are many positive results from this approach. “Projects are more successful; the construction process is easier for the client, and our younger people learn more quickly, because they have more direct engagement in the trenches with senior industry leaders.”
Commodore’s senior executives have deep roots and strong ties in the Boston Construction community. Their industry knowledge, experience and network have enabled the company to establish itself as a leading construction management firm.
In 2012, Commodore Builders acquired A.J. Martini Inc., a company with over sixty years of industry experience and a reputation for integrity and large project experience. Albanese worked for A.J. Martini early in his construction career and helped to strengthen the company’s institutional, academic and historic restoration portfolios while he was there.
“When we acquired A.J. Martini, they were a second generation business that had the relevant experience that we needed in order to accelerate Commodore’s growth,” explains Albanese. “Through the acquisition, we gained the experience and the credibility to execute much larger projects, including corporate headquarters and large suburban office projects.” These also include a high-rise condo project on the downtown waterfront in Boston, projects at Harvard University, and the restoration of the State House, the oldest building in Boston.
In addition to institutional and restoration projects, Commodore meets the needs of clients in the healthcare, hospitality, tenant interiors, life science and technology and multi-unit housing markets.
Commodore Builders has significantly invested in technology to optimize workflow and to improve the delivery of practical construction management solutions. To better collaborate with its clients, the company has adopted building information modeling design and management and file sharing technologies.
The company includes green practices in every project it undertakes. The firm believes that sustainability is the right thing to do, and need not add costs to a project. Commodore Builders incorporates programs such as LEED, Passive House, Energy Star and Green Globes into project planning and construction, whether projects ultimately seek formal certification or simply choose to include best sustainable practices.
Albanese is a believer in continuous improvement. “No matter how good we think we are doing, there are others who are doing it as well and some who may even be doing it better.” To meet that challenge, Commodore has invested heavily in training the project management team. It has two full-time safety officers who maintain a perpetual presence on project sites. The firm has also invested extensively in quality control protocols, safety measures and lean processes.
Superintendents are required to maintain OSHA 30 certification and are subject to the completion of Commodore Builders’ in-house training program. The AGC (Associated General Contractors) Massachusetts has repeatedly recognized the company for its outstanding safety performance.
Commodore has received multiple honors from the Boston Globe for being named one of the top places to work in Massachusetts, as voted by its employees. This accolade reflects Commodore’s employees’ appreciation for the company’s direction, project execution, leadership and culture.
Commodore Builders has also been recognized for achievement by the Boston Business Journal, the Commercial Brokers’ Association, International Interior Design Association (IIDA) New England, the Boston Preservation Society and ENR (Engineering News-Record, which ranked it one of the top 400 contractors).
“We work really hard on growing our people, creating opportunities for our people, giving them feedback and nurturing our culture,” stated Albanese. “From our earliest days, we’ve always had a very strong feedback and employee development process.” The company maintains open lines of communication through an open door policy, monthly meetings with senior leaders, as well as annual employee review processes. Each member of the operations team has their own individual development plan.
“This really holds managers accountable to mentor and grow their people. It holds them accountable for identifying when people need extra guidance; for providing the tools and the feedback they need to progress and to thrive in their careers.” This emphasis on accountability is supported by Lauren Larson, Commodore Builders’ senior vice president of organizational development. She has worked to bring structure to the firm’s development over the past eleven years.
The company undertakes quality projects that keep employees engaged and passion ignited throughout the company. Commodore has gone to great lengths to create an exciting work culture that is attractive to the industry’s best professionals in a highly demanding and competitive environment. Employees are encouraged to engage at whatever level they choose, socially, philanthropically, even athletically. The firm hosts an annual industry dodgeball tournament attended by over 250 players and also sponsors a softball, golf and ice hockey team.
Commodore Builders is a community leader that contributes to many charitable causes, specifically those veteran and shelter-related causes focused on ending homelessness. “Our people spend so many of their waking hours at work, we need to also find ways to infuse that experience with a strong sense of purpose. We want to show our people that giving back and helping others is an important part of our culture.”
“We find that we all feel good about the difference we can make as a company,” he added. “It really isn’t something that any one person does. It’s the cumulative effect of our team. And that’s what helps to define who we really are.”
Commodore Builders has adopted a specific diversification and growth strategy, and part of its plan is to spread geographically. The company has done work as far south as Wilmington, Delaware; as far west as Dallas, Texas and northwest in the Dakotas. It is eyeing future work in Miami, Florida and even Puerto Rico.
“Our strategy for geographic diversification is not to just open up more offices, but to really follow our clients and serve them in other parts of the world. As their need for us develops, we are able to build teams to fulfill their requirements,” says Albanese.
Albanese acknowledges that being fifty-three years old means he is keenly focused on the future of the firm. “I think that seven to ten years from now, I’ll be looking to pass this on to a whole new generation of leadership in the business. I think that’s a very important priority when you look at the young talent that we’re attracting right now. It’s our responsibility to train them and instill within them all the values that are important to us and that have been the foundation of our success.”
“Our real challenge, as we grow, is to instill in our emerging leaders the same entrepreneurial, hands-on focus, client-centric leadership that we founded this company on fourteen years ago. We work hard to ensure that we have the right executives in the right leadership positions, mentoring them and staying close to them, so that they maintain the same values and execute at the same level that has served us so well in these last fourteen years.”
The company has used the past year as an opportunity to stabilize its growth, absorbing increased demand for its services without sacrificing quality, safety or its world class client-driven service.
Albanese is positioning Commodore Builders to thrive in even the weakest economic conditions. To achieve this, Albanese has assembled a team of knowledgeable and highly-skilled professionals to build a successful and long-lived company, one that is built on client satisfaction and on an unending commitment to service, process and results.