Finley Perry
Courtesy F.H. Perry Builder Finley Perry

The doldrums that stalled the construction industry in the past three years have forced many builders to rework their retirement plans, but Finley Perry remains right on course. “I sold the business to Allison [Iantosca, Perry’s daughter], Bill Cosman, and Brad Gardner three years ago,” says the Boston-area custom builder and remodeler. Since then, he adds, “they’ve been good enough to employ me as a business development/sales guy.” Smart move. In his last turn at the tiller, Perry has helped his company maintain headway—and even grow—in the slowest residential construction market in a generation.

“We’ve had to really look at the margins,” Perry says. “Every single [subcontract] is getting three bids. We can identify the trade partner that is most suitable to do the work, but we also push hard to get the right number.” Maintaining the bottom line has meant ramping up volume. After a decade of comfortably averaging $5 million in annual work, Perry reports, the company has billed $8 to $12 million in each of the past three years. Before the real estate crash, the company diversified into maintenance and repair work, which now accounts for some $2 million in volume. Most crucially, Perry adds, “We’ve had a big, two-year project that started for us in March 2009, which gave us the sense that we would have cash flow to cover our overhead.”

The company owes its steady progress in large part to Perry’s experience and standing in the high-end Boston market (a stalwart of the local building community, Perry is a past president of his local HBA and served as a state representative to the NAHB). But he credits the new management team as well. “Allison has run this great sales and marketing effort,” he says, and Cosman’s interest in high-profile new-home projects opened a rich new market for a company that built its reputation on luxury remodels. The combination, Perry says, “has created great opportunities for us.”

Not the least of which is for Perry to make himself scarce. Clients are already looking to his successors, he notes. “And they don’t need me from a business management point of view.” The proof is in the company’s largest current project, a major remodel of a high-profile home on Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue. “Bill, Brad, and Allison have really done a marvelous job,” Perry says. “I go in there as a tourist.”

F.H. Perry Builder; Hopkinton, Mass.;; Type of business: Custom builder/remodeler; Years in business: 21; Employees: 17; 2009 volume: $8.3 million; 2009 starts: 70

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Boston, MA.