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Building a Boston dynasty

By:
  • SIMA
- Posted: August 1, 2015
By Cheryl Higley

0815_CEO_GreeneFamily
Bob Greene, shown with members of his family, including his sister Cathie, daughter Shelby, son Bobby, wife Rene, father Gabe and mother Florence is continuing the legacy his father began building in 1966.

It didn't take Bob Greene long to decide what he wanted to be when he grew up. But unlike most kids in greater Boston, he wasn’t dreaming of scoring touchdowns for the Patriots or hitting home runs over the Green Monster in Fenway Park. Instead, Greene wanted to operate big equipment and run his father’s construction company. That dream came true when he took over as president of G. Greene Construction in 1996. 

Founded in Cambridge, MA, by Gabe Greene in 1966, Bob has carried on his father’s legacy while putting his personal stamp on the company, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.

The company has grown from a one-man operation to more than 100 snow employees under Bob Greene’s direction, yet the heart of the business - a culture of inclusion while delivering a black-and-clear standard - remains the same. 

That strict standard of clear pavement is non-negotiable for Greene given the important sectors the company works in, notably energy and the Longwood Medical Community, which is home to some of the most prestigious medical institutions in the world - Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Harvard Medical School. Two of the hospitals (Boston Children’s and Dana-Farber) have been G. Greene clients since Gabe Greene added snow services in 1968. 

Training his team to uphold those standards is part of the company’s culture to pay attention to the details that are specific to such sensitive sites.

“We do a lot of training with operators on how to work in those areas and a lot of planning with site instructions that note things like ambulance access, air intakes, etc. We are always conscious of the impact our operations have on the staff, patients and their families,” Greene says. “We remind our employees to exercise patience and to be thoughtful of where they’re working. Most of those who are going to the hospital are not there by choice, so they may be overwhelmed or preoccupied and unaware of the work going on around them.” 

Despite record snowfall this past winter, Greene refused to compromise on the black-and-clear standard for his clients. He says despite the heavy snow amounts, his team was able to perform to expectations because of proper planning and preparation. 

“I’m not saying there weren’t challenges, but my company is geared for these types of storms. We haul while we’re plowing so we’re not buried in piles in the staging areas. We implemented liquids on walkways and stairs to cut down on service time. We are always looking at how we can improve and make sure we have the best equipment to do the job,” he says. “We also always had backup equipment, personnel and strategic salt depots staged near our locations.” 

A growing presence
Greene notes snow makes up about 10% of the company’s overall revenue but continues to grow as it expands its operations with hauling and melting operations.

“Snow management has become one of the most important facets of our business. This is not just a winter business. We spend 12 months a year planning and thinking about our snow business,” he says. “We are strategic in how and where we grow. Whatever we grow in our other businesses, our snow comes with us. We don’t want our clients to call anyone else.”

As the company expands its snow management footprint, Greene attributes its ability to grow successfully to his employees, many of whom have been with the company for more than 15 years.

He reinforces the positive culture fueled by hard work and a high standard of excellence that began with his father. The importance of relationships, ethics and reputation is ingrained in everything the company does - from maintaining impeccable equipment to delivering outstanding customer care - and is constantly taught to and reinforced with all employees.

“Anyone new who comes into our company is trained in how we do things. Even before you walk through the door, you know the type of company you’re coming to work for. We have second and even third generations of families working for us,” he says. 

Maintaining that firm grip on the company’s reputation is one reason Greene has opted not to use subcontractors, except in rare instances: “If I have G. Greene employees, I have their eyes and ears. The few subs that work with us have been subs for 20 years, but they are part of the team and understand the culture we’ve established.”

It’s all about relationships
It’s one thing to talk about the importance of a positive culture but Greene embodies it. His passion shines through and emboldens his team to strive for the same.

“Bob’s relationship with his crew has been a crucial part of the success of our operation. It’s not unusual to see Bob out in a storm checking on his crew at 3 a.m. or plowing our office parking lot. As a result, he has established a dedicated and loyal team who take pride in what they do,” Vice President of Business Development Adria Ferragamo says.

Greene says there is nowhere he’d rather be during a storm: “I don’t run the operations from behind my desk. I’m out there because I want to be. No one is having more fun running a company than me. I think if you have fun, your employees will, too.”

He admits that his greatest strength as a CEO may also be his greatest weakness, and that the key is finding a happy medium. 

“My greatest strength is how involved I am with the company. I’m out in the field all the time, talking and strategizing. I absolutely love what I do, and people around me see that,” he says. “My weakness, though, is that I’m probably too involved and should be managing from a higher level; but I think what makes us what we are is that I am out there. I love to be with my team. I love running my company and love what I do. I really am the luckiest guy.”   

0815_CEO_Bob_Gabe
Gabe Greene, founder of G. Greene Construction, passed away in 2009, but President Bob Greene says his father is ever present. Greene says his dad taught him a lot but the three most important lessons as they related to business were to use common sense, to establish trust and deliver quality service. “He passed away six years ago, but I find myself saying things he used to say. His pictures are still on the walls of 
my office,” he says. “It’s more important for me to honor his legacy than to create 
my own.”


Community Service: Children and families come first
A key component of the CEO of the Year grading criteria is the candidate’s focus on customer service. For Bob Greene, his heart lies with helping children in his community. Many of the initiatives are tied to the hospitals in the Longwood Medical Community, many of which are long-time clients. His family also has a personal connection to Boston Children’s Hospital, where Bob and his wife Rene’s son, Bobby, received a bone marrow transplant from his sister, Shelby, in 2001. Bobby is now 14 and Shelby is 17.

“Anything I can do for children is important to me,” Greene explains, whether it’s participating in fundraisers, donating Red Sox tickets or helping to build and refurbish facilities to make parents whose children are in the hospital more comfortable.

He recently was contacted by one of the schools in the company’s neighborhood. It needed help raising money to send 60 children to the zoo for a field trip. Rather than pledge to sponsor one child, Greene donated the money to send them all. It’s also common for G. Greene equipment to be seen plowing sidewalks and school lots nearby.

“I enjoy doing stuff like that. I’ve been fortunate in business and in life. Helping out is a good thing,” he says.

If you can't beat it, melt it
G. Greene Construction uses snow melters to reduce carbon footprint, improve service.

With Boston’s record-setting winter, space for stacking and storing snow was at a premium - if you could find it. But G. Greene Construction used its two Trecan PD 135 snow melters to stay ahead of the pace. Last winter, the company moved 8,544 truckloads and melted 4,200,984 cubic feet of snow.

The company began using snow melters in 2003. Bob Greene admits that clients were skeptical at first because of the initial cost; but by educating them on the process and the long-term cost savings that could be achieved, they jumped on board.

“The fact that they are eco-friendly, eliminate unsightly snow piles and snow dump fees, and reduce liability was a huge deciding factor for our clients,” he says, adding that the melters’ mobility allowed them to either be staged on sites or housed at the company’s snow dump. 

Using melters allowed the company to drastically reduce the amount of equipment and manpower needed in the hauling process.

“We used to hire 60 trailer dumps to move snow, and I didn’t feel I had enough control over the removal piece. The melters allow me more control, and we were able to reduce our carbon footprint by eliminating the need for all of that equipment. The safety of not having 60 trucks running around major medical centers was worth it.”

Greene sees tremendous growth opportunity in melting, noting that the company received several inquiries from property owners and managers who simply ran out of snow storage or found hauling to be too costly or time intensive, since some were having to haul more than an hour and a half one way. 

“We were able to attract new clients just for the snow removal. Many have contractors who are doing a good job and they have a great relationship with the client but struggle with the removal portion. We don’t want to take that business, but we can help with the melting.”

0815_CEO_Trecan
G. Greene Construction melted more than 4.2 million cubic feet of snow during last winter’s epic snowfall in Boston. The use of the melters is a key differentiator for the company.


Last words with Bob Green
  • I wouldn’t be where I am today without…great employees.
  •  My ideal day is…to go out and walk projects with my supers. 
  • In five years, I hope G. Greene Construction will…continue our reputation as a top-notch player in the industry. 
  • In five years, I hope I will…still be having as much fun running my company.
  • My passion is…spending time with my family. 
Five candidates were nominated for this year’s Snow Business CEO of the Year award. The winner was selected in an anonymous vote by the Snow Business Editorial Advisory Committee, a member of SIMA’s Board of Directors, a sponsor representative and 2014 CEO of the Year Carl Bolm. Thanks to Western Products, Fisher Engineering and SnowEx for their support and sponsorship of the CEO of the Year award.

Cheryl Higley is editorial director of Snow Business magazine. Contact her at chigley@mooserivermedia.com.
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