Colantonio Inc: Building the Skills of Those Who Help Build

by Susan Shalhoub, Worcester Business Journal

Holliston-based construction firm Colantonio Inc. develops employees like it builds structures: from the ground up.

Company President Francis P. Colantonio's approach to helping maximize employees' skills is simple and straightforward. "He hires the best people he can, lets them do their jobs, and does whatever he can to support them," said Amy Fahey, Colantonio's marketing manager for the past five years. As a result, she said, employee turnover is low: 40 percent have been with the firm five years or more; 22 percent have been there at least 10 years.

Doing all he can to support his team involves encouraging membership in groups like the chamber of commerce, for exposure to new ideas; hosting state-approved apprentice-training programs for engineers and laborers; and paid tuition for safety, training and certification programs. Other training opportunities are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Another thing Colantonio does — in addition to a robust and long-term internship program (company vice president George Willwerth started as a high school intern 25 years ago) — is offer a development track for entry-level employees to work in other areas of the company, offering them a broader overview.

"Rather than bringing a new estimator in, we'll have them work in project management first for a few days and just really understand the process before going to actually estimate the work," Fahey explained, offering a practical framework for new employees' roles in the company. "That way, they see the materials used and the time it takes (to complete a project)."

And the quest for new information as part of becoming a stronger company doesn't end with Colantonio, Fahey said. He himself works to learn and solicit feedback from the company's employees on what the firm could improve upon, she said.

"'Do you like the job? What could be different?' He loves to hear that and is willing to change," Fahey said. For example, "we've changed software systems" at employees' request, she said.
"He just inspires that sense of loyalty," Fahey said of Colantonio, not only through development and training, but also through flexible, family-first policies. He's welcomed Fahey's own children to hang out at the office when she didn't have daycare coverage. And then there's the story of an employee's child being in a full-leg cast all summer. "He showed up at their house with an air conditioner" when he found out the house didn't have it, Fahey said.