On November 21, 2021, Chief Operating Officer Jane Kaplan Peck was featured in Banker & Tradesman’s “In Person” section, in which she discussed her career path, the importance of Kaplan’s WBE status, and the current state of Kaplan Construction and the industry at large.
A No-Rejection Policy for Loyal Clients
Construction is a way of life for Jane Kaplan Peck, who oversees the operations of Brookline-based Kaplan Construction. Kaplan Peck and her husband, Nathan Peck, took over leadership of the 45-year-old business in 2014 and secured its certification as a women business enterprise with Kaplan Peck as majority owner. Kaplan provides construction management, planning and design-build services for multifamily developers, hospitality properties and even houses of worship, earning it recognition in 2020 as GC magazine’s top synagogue builders in the U.S.
Q: Was running the family business always part of your career plan?
A: Growing up, my parents ran the company and I never realized that it was unusual for parents to work together and talk about business 24-7. I grew up hearing about it on the weekends, and as I got older, I started having some interest in the company. My parents said, “If you want to work here, go work somewhere else first.” I worked at Leggat McCall and Shawmut Design and Construction, and then came back as a project manager and a financial manager, and took over as my parents retired. It was intentional for me. I worked with my husband, who worked at Turner Construction for over 10 years, so we want to be owners that are involved with every aspect of the projects and the company and employees. We could be more corporate, but we’d lose the family feeling. We have second-generation employees who work here. We have an eight-year-old and a 10-year-old, and this is something they have some interest in.
Q: What’s Kaplan’s expansion plan?
A: We’re at 30 employees right now, and I don’t really want to grow it beyond where it is now. Kaplan is known for you being able to call us and get Nate or myself on the phone. I hate people saying mom-and-pop, but it’s more than that. Nate and I are involved in every aspect of the company.
Q: Having done some house of worship projects, what are the special considerations that go into those?
A: It started back in 1989 and you realize it’s like building anew. Every project matters and we want to make sure the design intention captures the project. The clients in these projects are unique. They are building committees, not individuals. You’re also building a house of worship, not a box store. It offers a personal feeling, and the committees have a personal stake in a development project, so it’s trying to marry the project with all the unique aspects of the design with the practicality of the building for generations to come.
Q: What’s the typical dollar value of a Kaplan project, and how much of the work involves ground-up construction?
A: We’ll do anywhere from small projects of $100,000. That is not what we go out looking for, but if a client calls us, we would never turn them down. As a relationship, you never want to cut that off. We’re about to start a project that’s almost $30 million. Our sweet spot is $10-18 million. Ten years ago, there were a lot more renovations and lately it’s been a lot of ground-up, with multifamily projects. The ground-ups are different because you’re dealing with weather, especially in New England, and then COVID, and it adds a different level of complexity. But in renovation, you don’t know what you’re getting when you open up a wall.
Q: What went into the decision for the new ownership structure as a woman-owned business, and how does that affect opportunities for participation in public projects?
A: In terms of us becoming certified as a WBE, it was natural and strategic. In terms of me taking over as majority owner, it was a natural progression. We knew having the WBE certification would open more doors for us and there’s no other GC that’s a non-union company that’s also a WBE in the Greater Boston area, so it gives us a unique advantage. When I went to do the interview for the WBE certification, they said, “Wow, you really do know your stuff.” For a lot of the WBE’s, it’s more of just people showing a face and it’s not a woman really running the day-to-day. We do have to submit reports about how many people from WBEs and [minority-owned business enterprises] you have on the job sites. It definitely opens doors with the community development corporations.
Q: How does your backlog compare to one year ago at this time?
A: Our backlog is incredibly strong. We signed a few larger contracts that are going to take us through the end of 2022. COVID put a hiccup on people doing work and now we’re coming out of that fog.
Q: What about supply chain issues and how those are affecting schedules and costs?
A: It is definitely a rollercoaster. It’s hard for people to understand, but pricing went on an exponential curve, inflation went up and now we’re all dealing with steel increases that are pretty astronomical. It’s been changing over a short amount of time. I feel for the subcontractors. With the backups at the ports, it’s trying to keep a level head and not get frustrated and navigate all the different shortages. On one project, the windows didn’t come in on time, so it was putting plastic on the windows, while keeping moving forward on the interior work. You’re not going to wait. You’ve got to get the project done.
Top 5 Beaches Kaplan Peck Has Visited
1. Coffins/Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester
2. Taylor Bay, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
3. Plage de la Grand Mer, Cassis, France
4. Cocoplum Beach, Bahamas
5. Long Bay Beach, Tortola
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