BUSINESS PROFILE: Marion-based South Coast Improvement Co. President Said Servicing Clients is Key to Riding Out Trades Storm

August 21, 2015

Formed more than 18 years ago, the Marion-based South Coast Improvement Company, led by founder and president Thomas Quinlan, has expanded its reach and business while many other construction companies have thrown in the towel.

Quinlan, whose work in the trade dates back to 1980 while attending Boston University, said his design-build construction company, with the completion of its recent renovation project at The Residence of Cedar Dell in Dartmouth, continues to grow. Cedar Dell, a $700,000 renovation project, featured improvements to resident units, common areas, library, gym, new exterior walkways and new elevator, completed on time and under budget. While he admits there’s a focus on building or renovating assisted living communities for his company at this time, there isn’t much SCI has not had their construction hands on over the last two decades. And they’re ready for more. Quinlan said they’ve done a number of projects in the education realm for such places as Boston University, Boston College, MIT, Milton Academy, and many others, as well as retail developments like “Cupcake Charlie’s,” to a new 25,000-square-foot retail establishment off State Road in North Dartmouth that will house the new location for Hannoush Jewelers and a Starbucks.

“We doubled our size between 2008 and 2010 where there was literally blood on the streets in the construction world,” Quinlan said of his 40-employee company surviving and thriving in the country’s worst economy in nearly a hundred years. “We are a service business. That’s what we sell.”

With their work reaching well beyond the New England area, companies along the mid-Atlantic that South Coast Improvement had done business with asked for them to have a closer reach to them after a number of jobs had turned out so well that the calls kept coming. Quinlan said to aid that mid-Atlantic workflow; he established a Reading, Pennsylvania office to ease the location issues.

“We were doing a lot of business with existing assisted living communities and they were pulling us because we had done such a good job for them,” Quinlan said. “Now we cover everywhere from Maine to Washington.”

But how can a company grow when people, for the most part, weren’t building all that much, especially five to seven years ago? Quinlan said it’s all about doing the best job possible – from communication to cost to a lasting finished project – and the repeat business will come with it.

“Ninety-six percent of our business in the first half of the year was from repeat clients,” Quinlan said. “You get a client you love to death and you don’t lose them; we just keep doing what we are doing.”

When asked to explain more specifically, Quinlan said it’s simple. Most construction companies will come back with prices pretty similar to each other so he chose to focus on not just the price but the overall experience customers will have from the design phase to the finishing touches.

“We get involved as a team approach from the very first day, where there is a lot of communication between us and the clients, something that is priceless for them,” Quinlan said. “I tell my sales guys that we are selling the South Coast experience not just a finished product; we sell the process – we are a process-driven company and it seems to work.”

Despite their success, a good entrepreneur is always thinking ahead. Quinlan said he plans to continue expanding down the east coast to Florida – the assisted living and nursing home construction capital of the free world – but he also hopes to have more of a presence at home.

“We came into Marion three years ago and we’d like to do more local business; we can handle any major project in the area, large or small, even homes,” Quinlan said. “With our recent completion of Cedar Dell, we’ve added another level; we’re looking to put our professional stamp on our area.”

With a successful history of constructing or renovating everything from healthcare facilities to office buildings, educational institutions to residential communities, there’s not much left for SCI to accomplish but that won’t stop them from continuing to prove themselves, with every project.

SCI improvement offers design, construction and management services from preconstruction analysis to construction management, general contracting, design/build services and more.

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