Continuity and Commitment:
The L.F. Jennings Way
Since its earliest days, L.F. Jennings, Inc. has had a deep connection to clients, trade partners and employees. Through economic ups and downs, the firm’s leaders have stood strong and committed to doing what they do best—to building with efficiency and quality—all the while understanding their responsibility to those who work for and with them.
Upholding that commitment over the last 65 years, particularly during extreme economic downturns, hasn’t always been easy. However, the Virginia-based general contractor has persevered. During the most recent recession, the company found ways to keep its people together, retaining earnings to pay salaries and expanding its services in ways that likely surprised many outsiders. These efforts paid off and the company emerged stronger than ever.
Jon Jennings, President of L.F. Jennings Inc., says, “We’ve invested in diversifying our capabilities, improving our systems and training our people. In the last 20 years, we’ve successfully transitioned into other sectors, largely as a way to facilitate our clients’ needs and keep our exceptional people engaged and energized.”
Today, the company has over 350 employees and serves the mid-Atlantic region with offices in Falls Church and Richmond, and clients that include big names, such as Target Corp., Whole Foods Market, Inc., Federal Realty and the Trammell Crow Co.
Jennings, like his father and grandfather before him, takes great pride in the company’s successes, such as its 98 percent client retention rate; the fact that subcontractors trust his team to run jobs with precision and efficiency; and that many of those who start with his company, retire with it. In fact, some employees have been with L.F. Jennings for over 40 years, a statistic that speaks to its commitment to its people and the profession.
Shifting with the Times
The foundation for L.F. Jennings’ “people” focus began with Lawrence Floyd (L.F.) Jennings, a bricklayer with an entrepreneurial spirit who moved to Washington, D.C., in 1938. He started what was back then a masonry company in 1952, and proceeded to build relationships with area commercial and residential owners, constructing homes and businesses. His son, Larry Jennings, joined the company in 1965, and helped expand the business into general contracting, building public sector projects in the Washington, D.C., area. In the 1980s, the company made another business shift, building a backlog of business consisting of large-scale private projects for commercial developers and by the 1990s, office and retail developments also.
Today, under Jon Jennings’ leadership, the company continues to grow its reputation and business in the commercial, mixed-use, retail, corporate interiors, multifamily and health care markets—all with a keen eye on continuity and commitment. The executive team has made a significant investment in technology to improve communication, visibility and project delivery to clients and trade partners by utilizing the cloud-based project management software produced by Procore Technologies. L.F. Jennings was one of the first general contractors to use this industry-leading technology, says a company spokesperson.
Many of L.F. Jennings’ clients have been with the company for over 20 years because of its standards for quality and reliability. It’s those long-time customers who encouraged the L.F. Jennings team to open an office in Richmond to better serve their needs. The Richmond office created opportunities to grow, as did the corporate interior and multifamily construction divisions.
Frank Martino, now in his 16th year with the company, and Mike Andriliunas, 12 years with the company, moved to Richmond in 2007 to lead operations in Central Virginia. Martino, Director of the Central Virginia Office in Richmond, was recruited during college after completing a summer internship with the company during his junior year. Andriliunas went to the Virginia Military Institute and was hired in 2005. Both had started with the company as project managers.
Martino says, “Every employee is given opportunities based on potential and skills. The people that run the company are former project managers, superintendents and laborers. I believe this company’s people-first culture differentiates us from other construction firms and reinforces loyalty.”
Martino and Andriliunas are not alone in their commitment to the company. Mike Killelea, Senior Vice President with L.F. Jennings, adds, “Many of our employees have been with the company for 40 years. We believe that longevity creates a lot of continuity in the office, in the field and for our clients. I’m proud that we are able to keep teams together, particularly through the recession. It made us stronger because when the economy improved, we had retained bench depth.
Thanks to the company’s roots as a masonry contractor, L.F. Jennings’ leaders, project managers and superintendents also have a unique relationship with specialty trade partners.
“We believe our history as a trade contractor makes us a better builder,” adds Killelea. All project managers and superintendents know how to build and think through what every subcontractor requires in order to do their job. “We understand and respect our subcontractors’ priorities, such as site preparedness, and we pay on time. We apply the same principles of continuity and commitment in these relationships that we do with clients and employees,” he continues.
Martino agrees, adding, “The quality of our work, the schedule and budget is dependent on our subcontractors. We’re very aware it’s our job to set the table before the subcontractor gets to the job site and quickly turn around answers to questions. If we aggressively manage the project, our subcontractor can do its job efficiently and deliver a superior product. We’re an old-school builder—our roots are in the trades and we will never let go of that mentality.”
The company’s commitment to its clients and trade partners shows in the broad scope and scale of projects it has completed over the years. To date, L.F. Jennings has completed over 1,500 projects throughout the mid-Atlantic that range from office parks and mixed-use projects to grocery stores and multifamily residences, as well as retail centers, theaters, adaptive re-use buildings, corporate interiors, industrial centers and health care facilities.
Just a few of the top projects include the 82,000-square-foot Cabela’s, Inc. in Short Pump, Va.; the 25-acre multi-building retail center including a 60,000-square-foot interior fit-out at The Corner of Short Pump; the Carytown Place adaptive reuse of a 100+- year-old building; and numerous developments for clients like First Potomac Realty Trust, Willco Companies and Peterson Companies.
Killelea, concludes, “Expanding our services has made us stronger. We are well positioned to move forward, better than ever.”