By Joshua Burd
The founders of Hollister Construction Services have turned over the reins to a new crop of top executives, as its longtime CEO transitions to a strategic role outside of day-to-day management.
The Parsippany-based firm recently made several key moves to establish what it says is its next generation of leadership, including the promotions of Brendan Murray to president and Matt Higgins to chief people officer. They will work alongside Joe Furey, Hollister’s chief financial officer since 2016, to lead the business as former chief executive Christopher Johnson moves fully into the chairman-style position of head coach.
Johnson, who-founded Hollister in 2004 with childhood friend Kieran Flangan, said the moves are meant to create a multigenerational business that maintains the same team and the same culture. As the company’s third president, Murray is expected to help lead that effort for years to come.
“He has done an excellent job of running our business,” Johnson said. “And he has been running it for a while, allowing me to step out of the day-to-day in July.”
Hollister has been among the state’s fastest-growing businesses in recent years, with 2017 revenue exceeding $230 million, according to Inc. 5000. The construction services firm places a heavy emphasis, internally and publicly, on leadership and culture within its ranks, which executives see as a differentiator and a key driver of its role in some of the region’s most high-profile projects.
Johnson’s new role as head coach will focus on revenue and strategy for both Hollister and several affiliated businesses. He said he also expects to focus on coaching the firm’s emerging leaders and pushing them “in their leadership path to be able to take on more, so that we can scale this business further down the road.”
The industry veteran noted that his son and daughter are about two and five years away from college, respectively, so the new position will allow him to spend more time with his family.
Higgins is the first to hold the title of chief people officer for Hollister, a position in which he identifies teammates that live by its seven core values: integrity, problem solver, evolve and grow, ownership, team player, humility and diligence. He also has held a leadership role with the firm and has played a key role in creating, implementing and coaching to what it calls Hollister Way.
“The way we do business and the way we conduct ourselves in the business is our differentiator,” Murray said. “And the way we deliver the project to the owner is how we’re different.”
Hollister’s succession planning comes alongside several other promotions: Vincent Solano is now executive vice president, preconstruction, which the firm describes as the convergence of business development and estimating. Meantime, Keith Lovas is now vice president, field operations.
Among his ongoing duties, Johnson will remain active in sourcing new business, whether in new geographic markets or new verticals, which could involve tapping into the expertise of some current teammates that have prior experience in those areas, he said. Bringing the firm into different asset classes has been a key part of its growth in recent years.
“We’ve gotten into different verticals because of relationships,” Johnson said. “I think the market is busy — there’s no challenging that there’s a lot of work in the market — but where our work mostly comes from is long-term relationships.”
Johnson is also turning over much of his role in client interaction and in responding to clients’ daily needs to the company’s new leaders, although both he and Murray note that sometimes that is easier said than done.
“Chris’ relationships run very, very deep, so that’s probably the hardest part for him — to not satisfy that client immediately and to allow the team to do that,” Murray said. Johnson will still be client-facing as Hollister’s head coach, “but as a coach does, he’s going to be guiding the team versus actually playing the game.”