Shawmut Design and Construction, a $300 million dollar commercial remodeling company in Boston, estimates that they earn double the net profit of that of their closest competitors. Their strategies to reach their goals include focusing on limited niches, embracing highly difficult projects, concentrating on deadlines, and using laser vision to reach the highest levels of customer satisfaction.

But Bill Hughes, vice president of marketing and development, knows the key to this success lies in the team and the culture that Shawmut has developed over the years. The company invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in a system that focuses on some essential principles.

Start at the Beginning

"We start with the way we go about hiring," says Hughes. The Shawmut People Strategies team doesn't just place ads for employees, but instead aggressively targets the best and brightest from top Boston universities, attracting them with one of the best benefit packages in the area. In fact, Shawmut was recently recognized by Boston magazine as one of the top 111 Boston-area companies for providing exceptional employee benefits. Ongoing publicity like this helps Shawmut capture the attention of talented young people who are being courted by the best.

"The people we hire must fit our core values, such as being client focused, having long-term views of the future, having a sense of urgency, being honest and outgoing, and deriving energy from one another," says Hughes.

Support and Nurture

The People Strategies team then shows the employee that Shawmut is committed to them by working with the employee to develop a plan to help them achieve their goals. A new employee can map out a path for personal growth, allowing them to see the heights they could reach in the future.

"We believe strongly in promoting from within, but we have to do our part to grow leaders," says Hughes. "This year, we promoted 50 people. By walking our talk, employees believe in us and in their potential here. One of the reasons we want to grow is to continue to provide opportunities for our people." Extensive mentoring and coaching are ongoing.

Celebrate success

Celebrations are also a key part of the Shawmut culture. "We celebrate our day-to-day victories constantly. People are continually receiving accolades and recognition," Hughes says. "Plus, we have more darned parties!" Picnics, boat outings, holiday parties, birthday parties, and more keep spirits up and put people from various departments in touch with one another to promote the team spirit. At one of their most popular events, The Fall Ball, celebrating the end of their frantic summer busy season, Shawmut spends over $100,000 for a huge dressy event attended by 400 to 500 employees and guests. "These events kindle a feeling of pride among our employees. And this pride thing rekindles the energy," says Hughes.

But it's not all fun and games at Shawmut. Employees regularly work over 60 hours a week. Hughes says, "We live in a work hard/play hard environment but we do all we can to make it fun. In fact, we invest probably double the dollars in our people initiatives than any of our competitors. But if our people enjoy their work, it can't help but transfer to our clients. And when that happens, it pays off directly to the bottom line."

--Victoria Downing, Remodelers Advantage, (301) 490-5620,