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Updated: March 22, 2021 Mid-Sized Company Business Leaders

Business Leaders: Denis Landry, Kevin French are building partners who blend strengths

PHOTo / Tim Greenway Denis Landry, left, and Kevin French of Landry/French Construction, photographed on top of the parking garage at the construction site of an outpatient clinic in Portland that will be operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Landry/French is the construction manager for both the clinic and the parking structure, which was built in just 20 days.

From working with Colby College to reshape Waterville to expanding a building for Abbott Laboratories in Westbrook for COVID-19 testing early in the pandemic, Denis Landry and Kevin French of Landry/French Construction are making an impact statewide. The Scarborough-based firm, founded in 2010, is owned by its 55 employees and has about 16 projects in Maine underway or in early planning.

“Looking back,” Landry says, “I can say we have stayed true to our vision.”

While 2020 was supposed to be a year of celebrating the firm’s 10-year anniversary, the pandemic put Landry/French on a different course, including completing the Abbott project in a record 90 days. This year, it built a 385-space parking garage in Portland in a record 20 days and continues to have a lot on its plate.

Mainebiz: How do your management styles complement each other?

Denis Landry: One thing that was obvious from the start was our different strengths. Kevin gravitates towards business development and landing good clients and work. It’s a part of the work he truly enjoys. He is also more of a visionary. He looks at things from 35,000 feet. I gravitate towards operations. Give me the drawings and I will build it. I am not the visionary. I deal with more of the day-to-day details of staff, contracts, insurance and legal matters.

But the interesting part of all this is that there is no line in the sand we don’t cross. Some projects Kevin is more involved in from start to finish, and likewise the same with me, so there is crossover for sure. It’s interesting when we visit a job site together because we often are looking at different things and our takeaways can be different. Having different perspectives is most often a good thing.

MB: What was your recipe for getting the Abbott facility and the Portland parking lot projects done so quickly?

Kevin French: Having the right team assigned to these projects was key to success. Denis and I place a lot of trust in everyone who works at Landry/French. Our team knows we are looking for a well thought-out plan, but most of all a well-executed plan. We generally try to keep our plans less complicated and as realistic as possible, holding all of our team members accountable. Sticking to a plan is important, but adjusting your plan to accomplish goals is imperative.

On the Abbott project, we needed to avoid burnout. This project was our most aggressive schedule to date. Knowing that Landry/French was playing a role in a global pandemic most definitely placed a great deal of added stress on the entire team. Everyone was working long days. As one of the Abbott executives stated, we were building the plane as we were flying. Recognizing the entire team, including subcontractors, for meeting schedule milestones throughout construction was a key factor in keeping morale high.

MB: How did you come to work with Colby College?

KF: We interviewed and were selected as the construction manager for the $25 million Bill and Joan Alfond Main Street Commons project in downtown Waterville. The project was very successful, and we built a great relationship with the college. We have been working consistently with Colby ever since.

MB: What’s next in Waterville and greater Augusta for Landry/French?

KF: In the next couple of months we will be starting two projects for Colby — the Paul J. Schupf Art Center downtown and a renovation of the Millett House on the Colby campus. This fall, we will be building a new health and wellness center for the Travis Mills Foundation in Rome.

MB: How are public building projects you’ve undertaken different from commercial ones?

DL: They are commercial projects, but having a city or town as a client as opposed to an individual is different. Also budgets and funds can be a challenge as most are voted on and approved several years before they are priced and built.

We have successfully built many, and like all other projects there are similarities between every public safety building but configuration, size, materials and finishes can vary greatly between them. I can tell you the women and men who work in these facilities are passionate about their work and their facilities. We truly enjoy working alongside them and providing these communities facilities that will serve them well for many years to come.

MB: How are you bringing more diversity into your workforce?

DL: We are always looking to add talented new employees to our team. We have a pretty diverse workforce. In my 40 years in the construction industry, it has been predominantly male. Being involved with programs at universities and with recent applicants, I am happy to say that is changing. We recently added three extremely talented women to our team and continue to work on diversifying our workforce.

As Mainebiz has covered in the past, a lack of people in general entering the construction industry is a real problem in the industry. This is not just a statewide problem but a national issue. The construction industry offers great opportunities and has certainly been a great career choice for me, but one often overlooked by youth today.

MB: What’s your outlook for the construction industry?

KF: I believe the construction market is going to remain very strong. The pandemic has allowed many people to relocate to the state and experience what Maine has to offer. With that comes the needs to expand schools, housing and health services, which ultimately equates to construction jobs. We currently have a very healthy backlog of work, and there are many exciting future projects being discussed.

MB: What’s your advice to other companies with dual leadership?

KF: I would recommend you discuss each other’s passions and where you feel your strengths lie prior to the formal partnering. Being a business partner doesn’t mean you need to be best friends, but you do need each other’s respect, and listen to the other’s thoughts and concerns. One of the big things, at the end of the day, is knowing you have the support of your partner.

DL: My advice would be to focus on areas where you differ. Work on areas you’re good at and let your partner do the same. That allows you to complement each other. I think another thing that helps is management style. Having a similar way to lead is important. For us, I think it’s just mentoring great talent we have and allowing them to take ownership of their projects. Being partners doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything — just the opposite. Having different ideas is a good thing. We grow by exchanging ideas, being respectful to each other and putting the company first.

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