Growing up in Boston’s Mission Hill neighborhood, John and Chris Sullivan got their start in construction helping their father with painting, masonry, and landscaping. After landing jobs in the construction field and becoming foremen at area companies, John and Chris set out to start their own business. With two pickup trucks and little money, the brothers started Bilt-Rite Construction in 1982.
Bilt-Rite has grown from doing small remodeling projects to building multi-million dollar developments and becoming one of Boston’s most trusted construction companies. Its portfolio includes an impressive mix of residential, commercial, and municipal projects with clients that include the City of Boston, Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAMM), Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA), and the U.S. Coast Guard.
As Boston natives who have seen the city’s neighborhoods change over the years, the Sullivan brothers’ homegrown perspective, belief in having a solid work ethic, and their commitment to people are the drivers behind Bilt Rite’s longevity.
We spoke to John Sullivan about what makes a successful company, and why he thinks the work of community development organizations like Dorchester Bay EDC is important.
You got your start working with your father doing painting, masonry, and landscaping. Today, you run a successful company that you’ve grown steadily over three decades. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned about entrepreneurship?
J.S. – People are what makes a company successful. It’s critical to bring people with strong work ethic into the organization that enjoys what they do on a daily basis. Establishing good business relationships in a niche business and then working to build on those relationships every day is very important.
Bilt Rite has partnered with Dorchester Bay EDC on development projects, and you’re also a donor. What aspects of DBEDC’s mission motivated you to go beyond a business partnership to directly support our work?
J.S. – I believe that Dorchester Bay does more than creating housing. Their small business loans and training for entrepreneurs have helped many small business businesses start. I’m also impressed by the opening of the Bornstein and Pearl food business incubator and kitchen leasing program which has helped establish small businesses in the area.
From your perspective, why are community development and organizations like Dorchester Bay an important resource to the communities they serve?
J.S. – Community development organizations like Dorchester Bay are important because they provide resources and services to people in need without an agenda to make profit on their operations. They’re good at working with public agencies to obtain funding for projects that would not otherwise happen.
Is there anything in particular that you’d want people to know about you or Bilt-Rite that they might not be aware of or might be surprised to know?
J.S. – Some people are not aware that Chris and I grew up in Mission Hill and have worked in this area ever since. We have a good understanding of the various neighborhoods and how they have changed over the years.
Learn more about Bilt-Rite Construction’s work here.