(Editor’s Note): The following interview was conducted recently with Daniel Mar, III
HP: How did the Marr family find its way into the construction industry?
DM: Daniel Marr arrived in America in 1898 ready to put down roots and start a new venture. An adventurous and skilled sea captain, he endeavored to put his talents and hard work ethic to use in his new community. Along with his son John D. Marr, he established Daniel Marr & Son, a steel erection and rigging firm delivering services to important projects emerging in the city of Boston. The firm evolved into an innovative and durable operation, capable of responding to the demands of the marketplace and ever-changing building construction industry.
HP: There have been roughly 20 recessions in our economy since 1898. What do you think kept Marr afloat during those difficult years?
DM: Through six generations, there’s been a stewardship to what was started in 1898. The first generation embodied an entrepreneurial spirit. And through the five succeeding generations, the company has embraced that entrepreneurial spirit and strived to bring new innovations to our industry with state-of-the-art equipment and advanced techniques.
There has also been a productive rhythm at the company, established by earlier generations and built upon in later ones. Pursuing the region’s major construction projects has led to work that has put the Marr name on the map.
HP: Tell us how you decided eventually to expand into four separate companies.
DM: As control of the business was passed down, from Daniel to his son John and then to John’s son Daniel F. Marr Sr. in the 1940s, there were numerous challenges to face in the aftermath of the Great Depression. However, the construction industry was transforming and the demand for state-of-the-art equipment was rising. To meet new challenges and continue to succeed in the marketplace, the firm invested in truck cranes, which would replace wooden derricks. On the heels of this, in 1942, the firm founded Marr Equipment Corporation to provide other New England companies with the large equipment they required. Soon after, in 1945, we founded Marr Scaffolding Company, and the companies have worked in unison to this day. Fast forward to 1969; with fourth-generation owners Bob and Dan Marr at the helm, Marr took control of Isaac Blair & Co., a specialty shoring and rigging company founded in 1820. And in 1993, the formation of Marr Rigging Company completed the “Companies” designation as a one-stop shop for construction contractors. Today, Marr Equipment Company operates as Marr Crane & Rigging.
HP: Can you describe the culture at your company? Both onsite and in the office?
DM: We are considered a large/small company. Being family-owned for six generations and having employees who themselves represent the second and third generation of their family to work for Marr, we would say the culture is very much one of family, friendship. There is a mutual respect and a team spirit here, where support from one another is essential and contributes to the overall team’s success. No man stands alone.
HP: Behind every successful company, is a team of dedicated employees. What is it about Marr’s employees that have helped make Marr so successful?
DM: The source of our business success and longevity is certainly our people. Across Daniel Marr & Son, Marr Scaffolding Company, Marr Crane & Rigging, Isaac Blair & Co., and Saf-Lok Scaffolding Company, Marr employs an average of 300 people, including administrative and field personnel, such as crane operators, scaffold builders, riggers, and ironworkers. There is a strong sense of loyalty felt by the people here; they are part of a company that retains the most dedicated and skilled professionals for 10, 20, even 50-plus years.
Thanks to the people of Marr, the business has flourished from a very small operation in South Boston to a robust enterprise in five different locations throughout New England, including our South Boston headquarters, Dorchester, Canton, Springfield, and our Providence, Rhode Island, branches.
Through efficient quality service and expertise on every jobsite, Marr project managers and salespeople have been able to cultivate long-standing relationships with customers, who learn to entrust Marr with meeting their project needs and schedules.
HP: Has your business model changed or grown over the years?
DM: Each year, top-of-the-line equipment is acquired to service the needs of our customers, who range from subcontractors and general contractors to property owners and developers.
Ingenuity runs high on our team — we confidently take on the challenges that come with maintaining historic structures and as it relates to new construction; Marr has a steady and consistent hand in the building process that spans all phases of a building’s completion. We have been challenged numerous times over the years to overcome architectural obstacles, site restrictions, and unique building designs. There isn’t much we haven’t seen, and we have rarely encountered a situation where we couldn’t come up with a solution. We are known for our problem-solving capabilities and are proud of what we have been able to achieve.
The companies’ products and services generally complement one another. Our team’s ability to pull from one another, to rely on each other’s fast and dependable service, is a special aspect of our business and an advantage that customers have come to value and depend on for the success, ease and safety of their project work. We proudly own our ability to be a full-service firm, with each of our companies and their respective divisions strengthened by the capabilities of the next.
Q: Has this affected Marr in any way? Do your guys use a particular kind of software or technology or innovative approach that has helped streamline your employees’ workload?
A: As a supplier and subcontractor, we are keenly aware of the changing needs of our customers, new developments within the industry, including elements of design and new building materials, and we strive to provide the best possible service. Taken together, these tenets form the approach we subscribe to servicing our customers.
Q: Do you find that your clients are repeat clientele? Or has the “boom” in the Seaport district over the last decade kept your firm busy?
A: Yes, the majority of our customers are repeat business with many being long-standing customers, repeat clientele. At the same time, new buildings bring in opportunities to form new relationships with a number of developers and contractors and expose them to our expertise.
Q: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of running a family owned business that is actually four separate companies?
A: Retaining the best, most loyal professionals to form a network of support around the Companies’ core objectives – to provide the highest quality products and highest level of service to customers. Our team of managers work collaboratively across the companies to efficiently provide our products and services to customers.
Q: Safety plays an integral part in your firm, for obvious reasons. Can you talk a little bit this?
A: Our standards are high and we maintain them through extensive training of our personnel, ensuring each individual pays attention to detail and exercises hands-on control through every stage of a project. A persistent focus on safety has earned us an EMR of .62 and has enabled us to annually qualify for work in the most challenging environments.