Client Interview - Lisa and Ken Wexler of Elaine Construction Company
At Boston Private, we have the opportunity to partner with many diverse and talented business owners, helping them live their lives the way they want to and achieve their goals, hopes and dreams. Every single one of them has a different reason why they work so hard to achieve so much in life. We took 30 minutes with Lisa Wexler and Ken Wexler of Elaine Construction Company, a third-generation, family owned and operated woman-certified business that delivers construction management and general contracting services to academic/institutional, corporate interiors, health care, pharmaceutical and fitness sectors. Read on to learn more about their biggest influences and what has driven their success.
When you were getting started, who were your biggest influences?
Lisa Wexler: I was fortunate to work with both my grandmother, Elaine Wexler Kopans, for whom the firm is named, and my father, Ken Wexler. Undoubtedly, they were, and continue to be, my biggest influences. Ken taught me everything I know about construction, and reminds me today, of the importance of relationships to our success. He says often, “It’s a people business.” My grandmother imparted the importance of philanthropy, of giving back. It is why we do what we do, to build and strengthen communities, literally through our construction services, and we hope tangibly through our volunteerism, pro bono services, and financial donations to the charitable organizations with which we are aligned.
Ken Wexler: My mother was one of my biggest influencers. She took over operations of the firm when my father passed away, and I was just a college student. She instilled in me the importance of family, of working hand-in-hand with the employees, and of loyalty. I learned “old school” construction methodology from Gino Diconti, a long-time family friend and employee. The lessons Gino shared have found me in good-standing all these decades later. I owe them both a debt of gratitude.
What drove you to join Elaine Construction Company?
Ken: We are a third-generation family owned business. My father started the company in 1947 and built a formidable business in just 10 years. As I was preparing to begin my freshman year in college, my father passed away. With the help of our in-house counsel, my mother took the company over until I had graduated from school and acquired enough knowledge to run the business. I cannot imagine working anywhere else. To continue what my father started and to pass the legacy down to my daughter fills me with pride.
Lisa: I started working for my father when I was a teenager. Ken claims that he was surprised to learn that I had an interest in working in construction. He recalls thinking I wanted to work for the FBI, but clearly embraced the idea and has supported, mentored, and guided me along the way. To be able to work side-by-side with him is very special. We are incredibly close, and I feel lucky.
“We have woven our work/life together very intentionally, and have created an environment where ALL employees have the flexibility to spend the time they need with family and friends to mark the important moments.”
– Lisa Wexler
As a business person, what has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Lisa: Having a family and running a business is a challenge. I am fortunate to work with my father, my uncle, my husband, and one of my sons. We have woven our work/life together very intentionally and have created an environment where ALL employees have the flexibility to spend the time they need with family and friends to mark the important moments, whether for a daughter’s recital or to care for a sick parent – life moves quickly, and we believe there is room for both. This wasn’t always the way. I recall a time early in my career, just after the birth of my first son, when I was called from my hospital bed to participate in an interview. Today – I am proud to say – we make accommodations for the new moms!
Ken: Making the decision to move from large public project work to private sector corporate tenant interiors and Institutional work was one of the biggest challenges I faced during my four decades in the construction world. In part it was a difficult decision because the public work was part of my father Leo’s legacy, but I felt strongly that the stability of private sector work, coupled with diversification in our portfolio, would provide more predictability over time. Thank goodness it worked out – I’m not sure I could have lived with myself had it not.
“Making the decision to move from large public project work to private sector corporate tenant interiors and Institutional work was one of the biggest challenges I faced during my four decades in the construction world.”
– Ken Wexler
As we get older and more accomplished, we learn a lot about ourselves and what is important. What are some of the things you learned about yourself that surprised you most?
Ken: Things have a way of working themselves out. If you work hard, with integrity, and treat your people right, their loyalty and service will repay you tenfold. I can’t control market fluctuations or the price of steel, but dealing honestly with people, building lasting relationships, those are not only the keys to survival, but to a good night’s sleep.
Lisa: That I could actually be me and not some version of what others thought a president of a construction company should be. In doing this, I was not only held in high esteem but distinguished myself and my business from so many others.
I think I always knew that I was a fast reader, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I gained an appreciation for how this sets me apart. From fiction to business guides, biographies to technical publications, proposals and contracts, I can consume vast amounts of literature and information, which is a tremendous asset in my business and position.
How would you complete this sentence: “If I could spend 30 minutes with my favorite singer, it would be…
Ken: Bob Dylan, a poet that I relate to and return to again and again.
“I can’t control market fluctuations or the price of steel, but dealing honestly with people, building lasting relationships, those are not only the keys to survival, but to a good night’s sleep.”
- Ken Wexler
“If I could spend 30 minutes with a person of import, it would be….
Lisa: A close tie between Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for her style, grace, and devotion to family, and Margaret Thatcher because I’ve heard it’s been told that minutes seemed liked hours with her because the quality of the conversation and her ability to really listen made people feel important.
My favorite part of the day is…
Lisa: Cooking dinner for my family, because the activity helps me unwind, and it feels very nurturing to make a meal for people I love.
Ken: That first sip of my martini after we’ve won a great project, because when you work really hard for something, the celebration is that much more sweet.
About Elaine Construction Company: Elaine Construction Company is a third-generation, family owned and operated, woman certified business that delivers construction management and general contracting services to academic/institutional, corporate interiors, health care, pharmaceutical and fitness sectors. To learn more about this business, go to it’s website here