Case Studies

Lee Kennedy Company Inc.

Full Coverage in New England

After 35 years in business, Lee Kennedy Company Inc. (LKC) is well-known for its diverse portfolio of work spanning every major industry sector in New England. As an established construction manager based in metropolitan Boston, LKC is large enough to have broad capabilities, with 150 employees and more than $300 million in annual volume, but still treats both employees and clients like family.

Thanks to its promote-from-within policy, LKC is a company that is run by people who have experience in many aspects of the company’s work. Lee Kennedy, son of LKC’s founder and current president and CEO, is one of several in senior level management who has worked his way up the ladder. “I went from field engineering to estimating to project management,” says Kennedy. “I went up the ranks and I pretty much punched every part of the business on the way.”

Moving in Many Markets

The LKC team reaches into every industry sector. The company does a significant amount of work in the higher education, health care, commercial and hospitality markets, but also historic renovation, multifamily housing, retail outlets and so on. “It’s this diversity of type of project and size, this flexibility,” explains Kennedy. “That has helped us out tremendously.” Markets are always changing, and LKC is able to move about many areas as demand fluctuates.

In addition to working in every major industry sector, LKC completes projects within a wide range – from $1-million fit outs and renovations to $70-million new construction jobs. Whatever the size, LKC is fully equipped to handle all preconstruction and construction management needs and is proficient in design-build, able to coordinate fast-track projects.

For each sector, there is a LKC team leader with specific skills and knowledge appropriate to that field. To that end, LKC invests heavily in employee education and advancement. Furthermore, the company stays in tip-top shape by adapting to modern building techniques by utilizing state-of-the-art technology and by involving itself in the industry. For example, the company is a member of the Massachusetts chapter of NAOIP, a commercial real estate development organization that provides networking opportunities, educational programs, research insight and legislative representation.

Another key to the company’s success is found in the culture of the place, according to Kennedy. “We are large sophisticated company that does very complex projects, but we operate with a family-style culture,” he explains. “Our competitors tend to be really large national or international construction management firms or much smaller family businesses. We’re a mix of the two.”

Sustainable and Fast-track Able

Over the last decade, LKC has completed $500 million worth of LEED-certified projects amounting to over 1 million square feet in all. The company’s portfolio includes the Harvard University Weld Hill Research & Administration Building, which achieved LEED Gold certification. Partnering with architecture firm Kling, LKC worked a 19-month construction schedule on the $33-million, 42,000-square-foot project. The result is a gorgeous building of wood and masonry that incorporates 12 greenhouses and 88 geothermal wells.

Another LEED-certified project under LKC’s belt was Salem State University’s new $60-million library and learning commons, 180,000 square feet in all on a dense urban campus. The public-partnership project required an 18-month preconstruction effort of precise coordination using BIM between the University; the architect, Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbott; and DCAM. The lengthy preconstruction phase was in order to ensure that the project was kept within budget and on time. “We were intimately involved in the design,” says Kennedy. “It’s a high-end, very unique exterior skin of glass and terra cotta tile.”

LKC projects are notable for many reasons, but speed of delivery is one worth mentioning. A good example of the company’s ability to fast-track a project is its recent completion of the new Brown Brothers Harriman investment firm headquarters in downtown Boston. The massive renovation of the 65-year-old, 12-story Verizon Building in Post Office Square, a 400,000-square-foot corporate tenant fit-out, was delivered in six months. After a three-month preconstruction effort, LKC completed $70-million worth of work with three shifts around the clock. “At one point there were close to 1,000 workers on that site in a 24-hour period,” marvels Kennedy.

Brown University Keeney Quad was another fast-track project for LKC. The $15-million, 170,000-square-foot, 639-bed renovation was a design-build effort in coordination with DiMella Shaffer Architects, which was delivered in just 10 weeks.

Pride in its People

The company is able to thrive thanks to its ability to retain the best and most highly skilled employees in its industry. “There is very little employee transition here,” says Kennedy. “We have a very high retention rate. We can promote from within, because we’ve grown organically, which provides a lot of stability.” It is evident that Kennedy’s passion for leadership development translates to employee passion and well-being.

“Being involved in developing leadership skills within the organization and seeing how that person blossoms when they get the opportunity to take the next step up of authority in the company is what really excites me as president of LKC,” Kennedy says. “Leadership development gets me excited. To see the company grow because the people in the company have grown themselves is really what drives me.”

At LKC, employees are also given the authority to handle responsibility and take care of business. “There’s not a big chain of people involved in order to get decisions made,” explains Kennedy. “They don’t have to go to a home office and check to see if it’s OK.”

LKC is flexible in how it handles business with customers, acknowledging that every customer is different and has different needs. This serves the company well, as seamless coordination of projects relies on a first-rate team. “We deliver people to clients that have a track record of successful completion and have worked here for 12 to 25 years,” says Kennedy. “Clients are confident in our ability to deliver the project based on our peoples’ strengths.”

Respect for Success

LKC has experienced growth through the recession due to employee culture, wide area of expertise, as well as trusted subcontractors. For its projects, LKC has the ability to complete some drywall, doors and frames, and hardware insulation on occasion, but its main focus is on coordinating the trades – making sure each projects goes smoothly for its customer, the owner.

Kennedy says the company brings in subcontractors based on experience and qualifications. “People we have built relationships with and are on solid ground are the ones who are picked,” says Kennedy. “It’s not based on low bid but qualifications and experience, and solid footing as an organization.”

In turn, LKC is growing and evolving. “We have done a lot of hiring over the last three or four years,” says Kennedy. “The number one thing obviously comes down to your reputation, if people can trust you.”

Fortunately, it’s the love of the job that drives Kennedy as he continues to move the company forward with the trust of its customers in New England. “We’re looking at continued growth in the science and technology sector, and at larger projects,” says Kennedy excitedly. “We are already being invited to projects over $100 million.” It looks like Lee Kennedy Company Inc. will soon cover even more ground.

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