Joe has the global perspective of a business executive with 28 years of military
service… and the local ties that keep him firmly rooted in the Newton community
he grew up in.
Joe has a degree in Civil Engineering from UMass Lowell and an MBA from Boston University. He joined the Navy after college and then pursued a career in the construction industry. He worked as a project manager at Martini, an executive at Macomber and later as a senior executive at Shawmut. In September, 2009, after twenty-eight years of military service concurrent with his civilian career, Joe retired as a Captain in the United States Navy Civil Engineer Corps. He was awarded the distinguished Legion of Merit medal for his outstanding service and achievement.
It was back in November, 2002 that he founded Commodore…
propelled you to start your own business?
I wanted to build something different...something employees
could have a stake in…could share pride in. I wanted to
build an enduring company, a place where people have the
room to grow. I wanted to create an environment where people
embrace the connection between the business and the personal
aspects of their lives. They’re not separate for me. It’s
not just business. It’s very personal. I want to make a
personal contribution to our clients’ success, to the people
who work here and to their families.
Commodore turns 10 this year. How does that make you feel?
Truthfully, I had hoped we’d be further along than we are, but who knew we’d have these past three turbulent years to contend with?
Sometimes I think about where we’d be today if our trajectory hadn’t been temporarily torpedoed by the recession. We’d probably be a larger company with a more diverse portfolio of work. But I’m thankful to be where we are and I’m indebted to our people - for the confidence they placed in me to weather the storm. I feel more of a duty to them today than I ever have. We’ve been to war together. Now I feel this tremendous urgency to get through the recovery and get back into growth mode.
Being ten years old, we’re not a fledgling company anymore. We can’t fall back on being young. No excuses. I remember what it was like personally to be a young gun, way before Commodore. But age has given me a different kind of vitality and shaped another perspective. I find I’m more interested and attentive to those young guns who need mentoring to grow. I feel my own personal style changing. I think I listen better than I used to. (At least I hope I do.)
Since retiring from the Navy, you’ve had a full time focus on Commodore. Do you miss the military?
What I miss are the opportunities to think globally. When I was a senior Naval officer I was constantly thinking strategically about world defense, security and the global economy.
Now that my work is focused locally, I’ve had to find other ways to connect more broadly - with organizations like City to City and the World Class Cities Partnership. With them, I have travelled to different international cities, exploring the anatomy of innovation. I’ve studied the way countries like Israel and Spain nurture innovation and entrepreneurship. Together, we are making a huge effort to learn best practices from major partner cities in other countries and to apply them back in Greater Boston. We’re working with smart people who are driving development and change locally and impacting the blueprint of important initiatives like Boston’s Innovation District. That’s where attracting entrepreneurs, breaking barriers to entry, creating affordable housing, improving commerce and the economy in Massachusetts will pay big dividends to all of us.
One of the concerns I’ve always had with the construction industry is that we can sometimes be myopic. I want to expand on all the lessons I’ve learned, in the Navy and in business, to keep my horizons as broad as possible. There’s no boundary between my professional and personal life and I don’t want any boundaries limiting the way I think about the world, either.
You’ve always said that achieving “balance” in life is over-rated. Still skeptical?
What I am is still over-extended. I’m working on my ability to prioritize - but, I gave up on balance years ago. I think we have to be successful carving out the time we really need to do what we really want to do. I use Commodore’s 6 Qualities of Excellence as a guide. Those qualities apply to everyone, in just about every facet of life. I’d rather spend my energy developing capacity, than limit myself by pursuing balance.
Turning ten is a significant professional milestone. What’s the personal impact?
I’ve got 3 kids, 2 in college – another reminder that I’m not a young gun anymore. I’m still going through the transition of having children who don’t need me in the same way they used to. I’m tremendously proud of them. And I’m cautiously optimistic. Just the same way that I never quite feel like I’ve arrived – they haven’t arrived either – but I’m hopeful for all of us. Our kids have unlimited opportunities in front of them and I feel good that we’ve been able to help them with that.
What’s up for the next ten years?
I’m going to carve out more time for reflection. I turn 50 this year, which gives me plenty to reflect on. I’m thinking about how I want to live the next 20 or 30 years, god willing. I want my life to be as meaningful as it can be. I love the quote, “If you want to make God laugh – show him your plan.” But I do want to live every day with purpose – not to feather my own nest – but to do meaningful things. I want to focus on making the people here successful.
I focus on what I can control in life – not how big the pie is going to be - but how much we are going to do with our piece.
Accountability is important to me. We recently established a board of directors at Commodore and I’m really looking forward to working with them over the next 10 years. They bring so much credibility and subject matter expertise from outside of the construction industry. Their non-construction perspectives, along with their relationships and counsel, drive accountability and rigor. They’re helping us tackle the tough questions.
Industry and Community Involvement
- Advisory Board, UMass Lowell College of Engineering
- Board of Directors, Associated General Contractors
- Board of Directors, New England Center for Homeless Veterans
- IPAC, Wentworth Institute of Technology
- Non-Resident Director, Navy Mutual Aide Association
- Finance Council, Corpus Christi St. Bernard Parish, Newton
- Board of Directors, USS Constitution Museum