A Family Company Feel with Big-Company Capabilities

JM Coull, Inc.

JM Coull, Inc., is living proof that a company doesn’t necessarily have to be the biggest in order to make a big impact in the industry. Providing solutions to its clients’ building needs for 35 years with a focus on safety, quality and partnership, JM Coull (JMC) offers comprehensive and competitive construction services in preconstruction, construction management and design-build construction with hands-on service, attention to detail and award-winning results.

Based in Maynard, Massachusetts, JMC specializes in new construction and renovation projects for clients throughout New England, operating mostly in the healthcare, education, institutional and corporate/industrial markets, with a specialty in controlled environments such as cleanrooms, laboratories and hazardous production material spaces. The company offers a quality, value-driven approach and a large base of local, long-term vendors.

“We are a design-build firm, but not solely,” says President Andrew Coull, whose father founded the company in 1984. “We’ve evolved dramatically over the past 35 years, along with the industry as a whole. We initially started out as a general contractor, self-performing a lot of our own demolition and carpentry work. Over the years, we have transitioned to more of a construction management role, managing specialty subcontracted trades who we hire as part of our project team. Today, we do a lot of design-build projects where we are responsible for the entire design and engineering in addition to the construction, which offers a turn-key solution to our client. In fact, some of our largest and most complex projects to date have been delivered under a design-build approach.”

As clearly described in the company’s mission statement, JMC is committed to providing construction solutions that consistently exceed customers’ expectations by sticking to its core values of integrity, unrelenting improvement, empathy and being solution-driven. JMC also recognizes people as its greatest strength, and that individual growth furthers the company’s growth. By developing lasting relationships, JMC establishes and maintains teamwork and, in turn, customer loyalty.

JMC is also an award-winning company, with numerous Excellence in Construction awards, and Diamond and Pinnacle Safety awards, all testament to its dedication to consistently delivering best-in-class projects.

One of the programs JMC highlights as a key differentiator is its trademarked StartSmart Preconstruction process, which is a customized, two-pronged approach that provides clients with the best value in a construction project regardless of delivery type by minimizing the upfront investment exposure while seeking to provide reliable early cost, schedule, and feasibility data. StartSmart is a value-add that seeks to ensure the project starts off on the right foot.

JMC also uses a state-of-the-art, sophisticated, cloud-based construction management platform, providing easy, real-time access to project information anytime and anywhere. This platform provides a standardized means for communication and sharing of documents and data among all stakeholders in a construction project, from property owners and project managers to the design team to field staff, subcontractors, and suppliers.

“This is the evolution of the business,” says Coull. “We have pretty much always invested in leading-edge technology and have been on board with the latest hardware and software as they’ve come out. Today we use building information modeling (BIM), and we have an in-house person who is an expert, and who coordinates with our design teams, subcontractors, and in-house staff to bring modeling to its most effective use on every project. Not every company does that, at least not in-house, and it’s rare in companies our size.”

And it’s their size that often sets them apart from competitors — in a positive way.

“Our customers tell us they work with companies of all sizes,” says Coull, “and we hear consistently that we have tools and capabilities of those larger firms. When they hire us, they get a smaller company feel with larger company capability.”

One of the many benefits of doing business with JMC is that one of the principals is always involved, and always available for questions or consultations no matter the size of the project. JMC has been involved in a variety of projects, big and small, complex and simple, from publicly traded Fortune 500 firms to local non-profits and everything in between.

“Our company has that personal feel to it, something a lot of our customers really appreciate,” says Coull. “Clients may not get that ownership involvement working with the big guys.”

No matter the size of a company, obstacles can be similar, and one of those issues is labor-related — finding the right people to do the best work possible.

“We have managers and assistants, people in the field, and those high-quality resources are scarce today,” says Marketing Manager Laura Burch. “We sub-contract out, but workers can get spread too thin, so we have to be careful to not over tax our sub-contractors. It’s a huge obstacle all across the board, and a big problem for all companies like this.”

But regardless of the challenges faced, JMC prides itself on the work it creates, and the substantial client relationships it builds and maintains.

“Our customers are companies, but they are also individual people at those companies and as those individuals have moved around over the years, they consistently come back to use our services,” says Coull. “Right now, we are working on our largest project to date, a highly complex chemical manufacturing plant with a construction value north of $100 million. That project is the culmination of successful projects across several companies over the course of over 20 years. That is how we have succeeded in this competitive industry.

JM Coull’s impressive track record of successful projects means clients may move around, but they bring the company’s services into new work being done.

“They come right to us and talk to us about projects — it’s a hallmark of our company and our strategic approach is to do that.”

Burch adds, “More than 75 percent of our work is repeat clients. Word-of-mouth is also a big part of our business, which generates positive feedback, because we do good work and we care… and it shows.”

Safety and sustainability are also big parts of the JMC brand. “Safety is something we always focus on,” says Burch. “Every day is a new day and we’ve been extremely vigilant with how we approach safety, and I think the lack of incidents over the years is a testament to our efforts.”

JMC works hard and takes pride in the safety awards it has earned over the last 35 years. “It’s a big emphasis and everyone who works here knows it,” adds Coull. “You can never let up. It’s a never-ending battle, and we try to drive home its importance every day, creating a culture of safety.”

The company also firmly believes that green initiatives begin at home. A certified Green Contractor by ABC National, JMC has been recognized for sustainable practices in both the corporate office and in the field.

“We try to incorporate sustainability and minimize waste in all projects we undertake,” says Coull. “We also work hard to source local materials and supplies, which is an everyday type of thing we try to incorporate now, as part of the project.”

While JMC is experienced in LEED construction, they are also committed to incorporating green initiatives into projects not seeking LEED certification for clients who want to increase energy efficiency and reduce waste outside of the LEED program. Initiatives may include implementing geothermal and solar systems, incorporating low-flow toilets and faucets, using low VOC materials, and procuring locally sourced landscaping.

JMC is a company that loves to give back to the community, starting with its long-time involvement with the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, which provides food and pantry items with compassion, and also its assistance in cleaning up the Assabet River in Maynard, bringing a plethora of wildlife back, and even the occasional canoer and kayaker as well. And employees also do a lot within their own communities, raising money for a variety of charities. “We foster the idea of volunteerism and giving back to the community where we live,” says Coull.

Future milestones include changing and evolving with the industry, and learning and growing, though not necessarily in size.

“We want to focus on improving how and what we deliver and investing in our people so we can be the best we can possibly be at any given size,” says Coull.

The company also strongly encourages training for all employees. “We want them to come to us and ask for training, as it benefits them and the company as well,” says Burch. “We put a lot of emphasis on that.”

No matter what changes lie ahead, JMC will maintain what has worked for them for the past 35 years, embracing both the personal and professional approach their clients appreciate.

“We don’t want to mess around with changing the culture of the company,” says Coull. “Sometimes when you get bigger the culture has to change, but we like our company and we like our team. The industry is busy, and even if we wanted to grow it would be difficult with the limited resources that are out there that would allow us to grow. We’re not in this for growth’s sake only. We would definitely grow as our customers require, but we don’t feel like we necessarily need to. Focusing on continuous improvement and being the best partner possible our clients, that’s really our goal.”

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 16, 2019, 11:52 PM EST