Since 1987, J.J. McGuire General Contractors has built a reputation for honesty, integrity, and outstanding customer service, becoming a leading general contractor in southern Ontario. As the company celebrates its 30th anniversary, Construction in Focus sat down with the company’s leaders to learn about how J.J. McGuire has grown into the thriving company it is today.
J.J. McGuire General Contractors provides general contracting services throughout southern Ontario. Based in Oshawa, Ontario, J.J. McGuire’s work is concentrated in the greater Toronto area. The company’s primary service area is within a 300-kilometre radius of Toronto. “Eighty percent of our volume is within the greater Toronto area,” says Jeff Robinson, President of J.J. McGuire. The company has also performed projects as far north as Kapuskasing and as far east as Montreal.
J.J. McGuire self-performs heavy civil construction, small demolition work, concrete and formwork, and more. “We have a staff of 120 carpenters and labourers, so we can self-perform almost anything that carpenters and labourers can do,” Robinson says. In addition to its labour staff, the company employs 22 superintendents in the field and 14 office staff.
Specializing in industrial, commercial, and institutional construction, J.J. McGuire has a diverse portfolio of projects including schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, senior living facilities, and more. The company has constructed automotive plants for Ford and Chrysler, and has an ongoing relationship with General Motors, including the recent construction of GM’s Cold Weather Development Center in Kapuskasing, Ontario.
J.J. McGuire is proud to be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The company was founded in 1987 by John McGuire, Frank Difelice, and Andy Wojtis; Jim Greene joined as a partner in 1989. The company started small, with a staff of just 15 employees. The young company experienced strong, steady growth, reaching 30 employees and $10 million in annual revenue in 1992. By 2000 the firm’s revenue reached $30 million.
In 2007, founder John McGuire was the last of the firm’s original partners to retire. McGuire handed over the business to four new partners: Jeff Robinson, President; Mitch Newbold, Vice President of Operations; Andy Wojtis, Vice President and Senior Superintendent; and Leo Urrasio, Vice President of Finance. The company continued to grow steadily, doubling in size from 2010 to 2017; by 2017 its annual revenue surpassed $85 million.
Today, J.J. McGuire’s leadership team is excited to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary by honouring the company’s employees and partners. The anniversary festivities began with an employee appreciation event, at which the company’s loyal employees were recognized for their dedication. “We gave away some awards for 10 years of service, 15 year awards, 25 year awards, and we even gave away two 30 year awards. It was a very proud moment for us,” Robinson says. The company is preparing to host a party at its facility in Oshawa to celebrate with its subcontractors, developers, engineers, and other partners in the area. “We want to thank all the people who have helped us get to where we are today,” Robinson says.
J.J. McGuire’s success is built on its reputation for honesty and integrity. “What really sets us apart from our competitors is our fairness in dealing with any issues that arise, and our ability to get problems resolved quickly,” Robinson says. As everyone in the construction industry knows, occasional problems can occur on even on the best-planned projects. “We work hard to resolve any issues as amicably as we can. That’s not always easy to do, but our goal is to bring everyone to the table as quickly as possible and resolve any disagreements. We always try to find mutual ground, and to be fair in resolving any issues, so that no one walks away unhappy.”
Developers, subcontractors, and suppliers all recognize that J.J. McGuire is a great partner to work with. “A lot of our contractors and subcontractors will give us preferred pricing, because they know who we are, and they know they can depend on us. They know that we always do the best job we can, and that we’ll look after them. That reputation goes a long way with owners and subcontractors,” Robinson says.
J.J. McGuire takes pride in its commitment to providing personal service to each client, which sets it apart from the competition. “With many companies of our size, customers don’t get to deal with the president or vice president; clients only interact with the people under them,” says Mitch Newbold, Vice President of Operations. “We’re much more hands-on, and we love to interact with clients. [Jeff Robinson, President of J.J. McGuire] personally meets with project owners and goes to perform estimates. We still do everything as if we were still a small company, because it’s important for us to have that intimacy with owners and other partners. We provide much more personal contact than any other company does, and our clients appreciate it.”
Recognizing the critical importance of delivering on or ahead of schedule, J.J. McGuire has developed project management procedures that ensure project milestones and schedules are met. The company excels at performing work on tight timelines. “We have had to do that frequently over the years in our work for automotive companies; they want [their facilities] to be ready to go as soon as possible. We’ve got a talent for being able to dissect a project timeline and get it completed as quickly as any company can. We’re proud of our ability to do that,” Robinson says.
J.J. McGuire’s excellent work has garnered numerous awards, including the Oshawa Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Business of the Month award in February 2018 and the Business of the Year award in 2016. The company has also won multiple awards for its outstanding safety record.
The team recognizes the importance of safety and is committed to ensuring safety at each of its job sites. “Safety is the overriding priority in the way we manage our jobs,” Newbold says. The company employs a full-time safety officer and safety manager, as well as four full-time safety supervisors in the field.
Through its commitment to safety, J.J. McGuire recently received a Certificate of Recognition (COR) from the Canadian Federation of Construction Safety Associations, demonstrating the company’s adherence to rigorous safety standards. “It was a long process, which took about a year and a half; there are not many contractors who have been able to get COR certified,” Robinson says. In order to work on industrial projects for clients such as Ontario Power Generation, Toronto Hydro, and General Motors, J.J. McGuire has maintained good standing with all the various industry groups that regulate construction safety.
Like so many other companies in the construction industry, J.J. McGuire is experiencing challenges related to an aging workforce. “I believe the average age of a carpenter or labourer is in their 60s, so that is an issue our whole industry is facing,” Robinson says. “It’s a challenge, so we’re trying to recruit some younger people who are just starting out in the industry. Robinson is involved with several organizations working to build interest in construction careers for students at the high school level. J.J. McGuire also partners with local labour unions to develop new talent.
Indeed, J.J. McGuire’s leadership and employees have a passion for giving back to the community. The company supports 100 Men of Oshawa, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Durham Children’s Aid Society, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), and local hospital foundations. J.J. McGuire is also participating in a new initiative called Companies Who Care, a collective of local businesses that raises funds and awards grants to local organizations. “We take a unique approach to fundraising, and we try to help small, local charities where a small amount of money makes a big difference,” says Robinson, who serves as Vice President of Companies Who Care.
Thanks to favourable market conditions, growth has come naturally to J.J. McGuire. “In the next few years, we’re going to grow without really trying. We’re just riding the wave and growing out of necessity, really. We haven’t made a strong effort to grow; the ability to grow has always been there,” Robinson says. As the market for construction in the greater Toronto area remains strong, the company will adapt to meet the demand. “However, we don’t have a goal to grow much larger than we are now, because with growth comes growing pains. We’ve almost doubled our size in the last seven years; it’s been a big amount of growth, and we’re starting to feel those growing pains. As a company, our goal right now is to evaluate and control where we are and where we’re heading. We want to grow responsibly.”
As J.J. McGuire celebrates its 30th anniversary, the company’s leaders are quick to give credit for the company’s success to the partners who have helped the company succeed. “On behalf of J.J. McGuire and all its staff, we would like to thank the many architects, engineers, subtrades, suppliers, owners, and business partners we work with for all your support over the past 30 years, and for helping J.J. McGuire grow into the company it is today. Your trust in us, and our relationships and partnerships with you are and continue to be our driving force. We look forward to continuing on this path with you for many years,” Robinson says.