John Fish spent a good part of 2015 trying to sell Boston on his dream of bringing the 2024 Summer Olympics to town. In 2016, he redoubled his efforts on another tough task: using technology to transform his construction company.
The chief executive and founder of Suffolk Construction — now called simply Suffolk — looks at the success that Silicon Valley companies like Google and Apple have had and sees a model for building a workforce and a corporate culture that he wants to replicate. To a large extent, that means transforming how Suffolk is viewed by those within the company and outside it and embracing the ways that digital advances and big-data analysis can help it continue to grow.
The company installed what it calls the CAVE, a room where people wearing virtual reality goggles can “enter” simulations of construction projects. This helps clients and contractors visualize what a project will look like, right down to the locations of the electrical outlets. The first project designed this way was the nearly $500 million Brigham and Women’s Hospital Building for Transformative Medicine that opened last year.
As he chases millennial workers, Fish is mixing it up in other ways, dropping the word “Construction” last month from the company’s brand name, loosening the dress code at its Roxbury campus and modernizing its look, and opening “smart labs” in various cities to test new construction technologies. “What keeps me up at night is our industry is going to be disrupted,” Fish says. “I would rather be the person, or the company, that’s doing the disrupting and taking the lead.”