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Meet Michael Welch of JJWelch in Salem

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Welch.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Michael. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I started working summers and vacations for my father at age 12. He would bring me to our storage yard and I would tag along with our truck driver to deliver or pick up materials at various jobs, and sometimes I got to work at a job site for the day. As time went on, I moved to working on single jobs as a laborer and gradually learned how to lay out buildings and sites. Eventually, I was able to supervise small parts of jobs. I was also able to see other industries and determine what I didn’t want to do such as spend time in prison after working there for a year and a half constructing 3 new buildings within the walls of Concord prison. When I was in my senior year of college at Tufts, I began working virtually full time. I arranged my class schedule to fit around my work, so I ended up taking most of my courses at night or blocked together. After graduating with a degree in engineering, I worked in the field for 7 years until I was brought into the office to do estimating and project management. I continued to do that until my father passed in 1988 when I was 37 at which time I took over the business. I still run the business today, but now it’s with the help of my son, Justin. Seeing the transition from the other side is interesting and exciting as Justin is able to take on new responsibilities and grow into it before my eyes.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
No, far from it. My father and I had a conversation prior to his dying about the company.

He told me, “Anyone can make money when the times are good, the measure of a person is staying in business when the times are bad.” Since that time, the economy and our business have endured their fair share of ups and downs. I have seen well-respected companies- both bigger and smaller- go out of business, while few of those with whom we competed when I entered the business are still around have been able to survive. The business is difficult but rewarding. I still point out to people buildings we have built and feel a tinge of sadness when buildings we have constructed are demolished.

When I bought the company from my father, we were doing nothing but building condominiums. That market crashed shortly after his death. We plummeted from 43 million in annual revenue to 3 million in just one year. It was a whirlwind year as you may expect and I learned a lot more about courts and owner bankruptcies than I ever wanted to know. I recall going to a supermarket renovation prebid conference with 10 other contractors just after the market collapsed and the Architect opened the conference by saying 6 months ago I couldn’t have paid you all to bid this. It’s amazing what a terrible economy will make you do.

Learning the business is about doing what makes you happy, and not what other people tell you should do, is probably the most important lesson I have learned along the way.

If everyone else knew your business as well as they tell you they do, then they would be doing it instead of you.

JJWelch – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Since 1852, James J. Welch has been, and likely always will be, a general contracting firm. We have made an effort since the condominium crash to do a wide variety of work.

Most of our projects happen to be renovations and I think we do an especially good job of working in occupied areas.

We recently completed a renovation of an independent living facility common area. It was done in phases, so the residents could maintain their use of the areas, except for where we were working. We were able to work alongside the staff and keep the programs operational for the duration of the construction. Everyone was happy at the end of the project, which is always the ultimate goal.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Michael Welch (left) & Justin Welch (right)

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