Connolly Brothers: More Than A Century of Vision

January 2013

In 1880, four brothers started Connolly Brothers Inc., a small construction company, based in Beverly Farms. More than 130 years later, a fifth generation is leading the firm into the next century. It's hard to imagine any organization staying together during World War I and II, the Great Depression, decades of economic upheaval, and more, yet Connolly Brothers has remained a constant. In fact, during the tough economic climate of the past five years, Connolly Brothers has managed revenues of $15 million to $35 million annually.

What makes its foundation so strong? The ability to adapt to, and retool for, changing market needs. At one time, the company had upwards of 500 employees working on projects up and down the East Coast. Today, the streamlined firm has morphed into a top provider of industrial, commercial, and institutional construction management services. How highly regarded is Connolly Brothers? More than 70 percent of its clients return for new construction projects.

Over time, Connolly Brothers moved from roadwork and utility construction to specialized residential construction projects, property management, pool and tennis court construction, and other odd jobs, which helped see them through the Depression and World War II. By the time Stephen Connolly IV joined the firm in 1971, following a stint in the navy, the company was still heavily involved in residential work. Shortly thereafter, he put his own stamp on the company.

"At that point, 40 percent of our work was residential. We began to phase that out and stopped pursuing those projects," he says. "By the time I bought the company from my father in 1989, roughly 25 percent of the work was residential. Very consciously and deliberately over the next five years, residential work was completely phased out. We also moved away from being a general contractor where much of the work is self-performed, to a construction manager, where the majority of the work is subcontracted and managed by our office and field personnel. At one point in the mid-'70s, we had as many as 180 employees on the payroll. Today, we do considerably more construction work with 25 employees on a construction-management basis."

If change is a constant for Connolly Brothers, the next generation, represented by Steve's son Jay, stands ready to make its mark. Five years ago, just before graduating from Boston College, Jay told his dad he wanted to come to work for him, and he came aboard as a project manager. Where might he take the firm? "I take a tremendous amount of pride in our legacy," he states. "It is truly a special thing to be a part of. I want to maintain the same principles that have contributed to our longevity and success and that we pride ourselves on: treating our customers fairly and making sure we're asked back for their next project. I plan on making sure we do so in stride with the changes in the construction industry and in the world we live and conduct business in. The industry has changed a great deal during the past 30 years, and my plan is to work with new construction technologies and methods in construction when the opportunities present themselves."

For more than a decade, says Steve, Salem Five has been part of the Connolly Brothers' ability to keep moving forward. "We've been doing general banking, deposit, checking, and lending with the bank, including long-term real estate borrowing and a short-term line of credit," says Steve. Like the company itself, Steve actually relies on a connection that goes back several decades. "I actually have a relationship with [Salem Five senior vice president, Commercial Banking] John Hall. We worked together when I first came on board and he was a loan officer at another local bank. Maintaining those kinds of relationships—with clients, employees, vendors, and others—has served us well for more than a century."

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