Jennifer Pinck is founder and president of Pinck & Co., Inc., 98 Magazine Street, Boston, and Pinck-co.com.
Jennifer Pinck was one of the first women to break into the construction industry, working in the building trades in the late 1970s and as a construction superintendent for a major Boston construction firm in the 80s. She earned an MBA from Simmons Graduate School of Management in 1986, the same year she received an ABC Boston Building License – becoming the first woman in Massachusetts to do so. Jennifer was among the few women in leadership positions for the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority’s Boston Harbor Project, a $4 billion court-ordered sewage treatment plant, and the Big Dig, two of the country’s largest, most complex, and heavily scrutinized public works projects.
In 1998 she founded Pinck & Co., Inc., an independently-owned building industry consultant providing comprehensive project management services to owners and developers. The firm primarily focuses on providing multi-family housing, education, and health care clients with planning, design coordination, project management, and comprehensive real estate development consulting services during all phases of capital projects.
Pinck & Co. has grown every year for the past 20 years, has managed more than $5 billion in construction value, and has won numerous awards, including being named one of the fastest-growing private companies by Inc. Magazine, earning a place on the Inc. 5000 list for 2016 and 2017. Since 2013, Pinck & Co. has also been recognized as one of the fastest-growing inner city businesses, a distinction given by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC). For the second year in a row, Pinck & Co. was named to the ICIC Inner City Hall of Fame, which honors firms that have received the award, five times or more.
Tell me about your early career.
I worked in the building trades as a commercial painter during the late 1970s when there were no other women in the industry, as far as I knew. It was a strange and hostile environment, and at times, I was totally ostracized. During that difficult time, I knew I had to prove myself, so I grew “thick skin and round shoulders,” stayed focused, and was persistent. I used my time in the trades to learn not just about how buildings happen, but also how to survive a hostile environment and harsh conditions.
I discovered I really liked the environment of a construction site and working with the tradesmen. My persistence paid off. I was recruited by a major Boston construction firm as a field engineer and was later promoted to construction superintendent in 1986 – a first for that firm.
In the 90s, I worked on two of the country’s largest, most complex, and heavily scrutinized public works projects. I was construction manager for the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority’s Boston Harbor Project, a $4 billion court-ordered sewage treatment plant. Then, as mitigation manager for Boston’s Big Dig, I directed staff responsible for designing, implementing, and monitoring programs to help reduce construction impacts on the city’s neighborhoods. I was among the few women leaders who had oversight for meeting important project milestones.
How did the concept for Pinck & Co. come about?
In 1998, I saw a growing need to provide owners and developers with project management oversight for their development projects. I knew of many executive directors and others in leadership positions who were busy running their organizations and did not have the time or expertise to manage their projects. I was in a unique position to offer clients a broad perspective from the building trades to the board room, a diverse skill set, and what I refer to as “twice-in-a-lifetime experiences” – working on two major public works projects. I had gained deep knowledge about the complexities of design and construction, as well as a wealth of management insight.
I wanted the focus of my firm to be mission-driven – to provide exceptional, client-focused services and to build better communities. We started out working primarily on affordable and senior housing projects, and over the years, diversified our portfolio to include the educational, health care, and institutional sectors. We’ve also expanded geographically. While most of our business is throughout Greater Boston, we are working on projects in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut.
How was the first year in business?
It was exciting! I knew I had identified a niche in the industry. I had a lot of contacts throughout the region and continued to get involved in the community and build my network. I already knew many business leaders, public officials, and neighborhood activists who were happy to be references and make connections on my behalf. They knew I was mission-driven and that I supported their vision for building better communities. It took off from there.
What was your marketing strategy?
My marketing strategy was me – I started out on my own, networked constantly, and focused on building relationships. Many of those relationships are still going strong. Most of our business has been through word of mouth and repeat clients.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Very quickly – we doubled our business every year for the first three or four years. Pinck & Co. has grown every year for the past 20 years, even during the recession.
I started out with a small staff and have built my team over the years. I hire staff with great attitudes and diverse credentials including architects, engineers, construction managers, and financial development specialists who use their expertise to oversee a wide range of projects.
How do you define success?
Being happy. Enjoying your life and enjoying what you do. I look forward to going into the office and I enjoy and appreciate my staff. We work hard and we also have fun.
I’m proud that I can drive through Greater Boston and point to many landmark buildings in which my company has played a key role in bringing to fruition. After 40 years in the business, it’s exciting to count the tangible achievements but it’s more exciting to know that our efforts have had a positive impact on the people and the communities behind each project. It’s important for me and my team to also work with nonprofits and small start-ups with great ambitions.
What is the key to success?
A mastery of skills and attitude.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Count on yourself – it’s up to you.
What are some quotes that you live by?
1. Worry doesn’t solve problems.
2. Work hard, play hard.
3. Embrace change.
What are some of your favorite books?
The Path between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 and The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough. Also, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Not being selected by my alma mater to be their project manager for an upcoming project.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I hate to fail and I’m good in a crisis.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Get involved in the community and build relationships. Think big and keep your eyes on the details.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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