Erland Construction Celebrates 40 Years of Success

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July 12, 2017

Google “corporate culture” and you will hit a numerous list of articles that tout the importance of instituting everything from a “culture of wellness” (Forbes) to “common values and how they are interpreted”. (HBR)
More companies are scrambling to stay competitive by offering a myriad of what were once value added benefits but are now wholly expected by the new generations of work force that include: flex time, unlimited vacation time, time allocated for physical activity, healthy food choices, opportunities for social engagement and more.

It is no coincidence that Erland Construction, Inc., celebrating their 40th year anniversary, has also been an active member of the AGC since their inception. Erland epitomizes the values of Building Excellence through their unwavering resolve to deliver 100 percent client satisfaction in several diverse markets by way of an empowered corporate culture.

Boston and the surrounding cities are made up of buildings from various periods and styles over the course of more than 300 years. The market has seen its ups and downs yet Erland has remained steady by being resourceful and committed to their shared common values while respecting different views.

The company was founded through George B.H. Macomber Builders, who at the time was a major player in the Boston construction arena, with a smaller branch in New Haven, CT.  In 1973, Tom Blesso, newly graduated with a civil engineering degree from Tufts University interviewed for a position with then New Haven vice president Kenneth Erland Froeberg. He was hired and worked for the next 4 years as field engineer and assistant superintendent.  Ken challenged him to answer a higher calling by becoming a master builder instead of pursuing civil engineering.

In addition to heading up Macomber Builders, George Macomber was also partners with Rodger Nordblom, an old Harvard classmate, in NorMac Development that built Northwest Park, the 128 Office Park and current location of Erland’s headquarters. Northwest Park had started in the 1960s but in the mid-1970s the venture had difficulties staying competitive as it expanded due to higher union construction costs in a suburban open shop market.  Rodger and George decided to “double-breast” by having Ken service NorMac Development solely out of Boston as an open shop entity while Macomber continued as a union contractor. Momentum grew with Ken as president, Tom as project superintendent and new hire Chuck Vaciliou assisting in project management along with Anne Feher and Carl Peterson offering full array of building services.  Each colleague was empowered to do what was in the best interest of the client and what would help the company grow. Together, these partners, with Ken at the helm, created the foundational core of Erland today – empowered employees, with integrity, focused on delivering quality building services and unparalleled client service. 

Unfortunately, in 1983 Ken unexpectedly passed away at the age of 58, leaving George Macomber considering his next steps. Tom and Chuck were offered the position to lead the company, but common sense told them that they were not quite ready, so the search for a new president began.

That new president was Bob McDonald, who ran Vappi Construction Company for 25 years and ultimately managed Gilbane’s North East region for three. Tom says, “He was a great fit. He had all the right qualities, knew the business inside and out, was caring and fearless but not reckless. We were lucky to get him.”

Shortly thereafter, the Carpenters Union eliminated any options for “double breasting” and another decision had to be made. It was a pivotal point in the company’s evolution when Bob bought Macomber out and established the Erland brand.

Luck was not a factor in the company’s growth. Bob diversified into other markets and in 1986 brought his son, Steve, on board as an estimator. Steve always had a passion for construction, working summers at Vappi while earning a degree in business, marketing and finance. Later he worked at Macomber and Erland. Once at Erland, he learned his way through company via estimating, project management, and business development all the while focusing on client service. Steve shares that because Erland started with a captive client, they could focus entirely on client service, unlike other startups that had to focus on the bottom line.  That helped to establish a culture of outstanding client service.

Together, Steve, as President, and Tom and Chuck (both as Senior Vice Presidents) worked as partners responding to an ever- demanding market while controlling the company’s growth. They all agree there has been a continuous history of family culture. “It’s who we are” shares Tom. When pressed to choose a few words that describe the culture and mission, Chuck believes they are: “cooperation, empowerment, caring, entrepreneurial, thoughtful and smart”. Tom continues: “Our employees are entrusted to think of our clients continuously and to consider from the get-go what is in the client’s best interest.  Decisions are based with that in mind.”  This is a company whose cultural foundation began 40 years ago and is as strong if not stronger today. Erland boasts a low employee turn-over with the average duration of employment more than 12 years – a statistic that is most unusual in this industry.  Additionally, more than 85% of their jobs come from repeat business or referrals.

The millennial challenge is real but as they age it is shifting. They are out-growing the free lunch and cool office offers (although Erland’s office is quite cool) and are now looking for a purposeful culture with managers that are motivated to push boundaries and think differently.

Erland was there 40 years ago. A perfect example is long-time employee Rick Jensen, who originally joined the company in 1981 as a carpenter and is now Vice President. Rick says it was not the path he expected but it came naturally and with the encouragement and support of his colleagues at Erland he earned his degrees and moved into a management role. As for recruiting and retaining the younger generations entering the workforce, he says Erland’s management team looks to “create opportunities, offer open communications and set clear expectations”.

The company does more than its fair share in charitable work. The charitable work started when Kenneth Erland Froeberg passed away and a scholarship was set up in his memory.  This has transitioned into the Erland’s Community Relations Committee and The Erland Foundation. Through both groups, Erland takes an active role in community work by sponsoring annual scholarships for Burlington High School, Merrimack College and Wentworth Institute of Technology students interested in construction careers, raising money for victims of natural disasters, supporting the local food pantry and several non-profit organizations.

It’s a culture that organically is being passed on to the next generation. While the shift is happening in the leadership team the company continues to operate with a professional heart and open mind with as much passion and conviction as the prior generation. It’s a simple formula yet one that has garnered Erland another 40 years of unbridled success.

AGC MA congratulates Steve, Tom, and Chuck and their outstanding team in exemplifying Building Excellence within the Commonwealth and beyond. 

Printed courtesy of www.agcmass.org – Contact the AGCMA - Associated General Contractors of Mass for more information.
888 Worcester Street, Suite 40, Wellesley, MA 02482-3708 – (781) 786-8917 – canoni@agcmass.org