Cultivating Happy Relations and Cities

That philosophy is shared by co-founder and brother-in-law, Tom Socciarelli. That’s a good thing, considering they share equal stakes in the company they founded in 1985, along with their late brother-in-law, Benedetto Arduini.

Working with relatives presents its pros and cons. Sometimes family drama spills onto the business floor, and the possibility of boardroom steam bubbling over to the family stage is real. But according to Arduini, 53, a professional civil engineer, and Socciarelli, 59, a civil technician, who both reside on the same street, their association is harmonious on all levels.  

They manage a tight-knit crew humming along on the same wavelength. The partners believe that formal education and training (the company invests $50,000 a year on development and in-house programs) keep them all up to date, and may be “what distinguishes them from competitors.” Arduini is a professional civil engineer and his wife, Sara, with two bachelor’s degrees behind her – one in economics and the other in accounting – is company controller. Socciarelli’s son, Steven, 29, who has a bachelor’s degree in economics and a PMI certificate, has been working with the company for the last six years in project management.

“He came in when we lost Benedetto,” explains Socciarelli. Arduini’s future son-in-law, Alessandro Arciero, 25, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, has joined the corporate cast as a project manager. “I never pushed my kids into the family business,” says Socciarelli. “Steven came on board out of his own initiative.”

Both partners want to highlight the fact that all their kids, even those whom are not in the business, have university degrees. Socciarelli’s daughter, Lora, has obtained a master’s degree in political science, and Arduini’s daughters, Alessandra and Isabella, are both embarking on legal careers. “We’ve been together for a long time,” says Socciarelli, married to Jack’s sister, Jessie (Giacinta). “It all started with my father-in-law, Americo Arduini, who was established since 1955. My brothers-in-law and I were young, fresh out of school, and ready to follow in his footsteps.”

 Undeniably, they paid their dues, facing the inevitable obstacles (or “learning opportunities” as Arduini prefers to think of them) that newbies do. “It helped that my father had made a good name for himself. I’d call a bank… ‘Oh, you’re Arduini’s son…’ so it made some things easier. But we still had to prove ourselves.”

The builders did public works from the start, since that’s what the elder Arduini, their indisputable role model (his son calls the able 91-year-old his “hero”) was doing. Their most challenging public projects were the 1999 Centre hospitalier régional De Lanaudière requiring “pouring one million and a half square feet of cement in 7 months”; the Merck Frosst “monster contract with unforgiving delivery dates”; and the $18-million Botanical Garden re-do obtained through “the lowest bid.” 

They recall the tender business as a minefield fraught with bureaucratic bias that could explode at any turn. “As Italians, we struggled in the public sector, but the perceptions are untrue. We work hard and we’re honest,” Socciarelli notes.

Make that honest and resilient. Arduini and Socciarelli, like many other entrepreneurial baby boomers, appear to have nine lives when it comes to surviving marketplace bubble bursts. Consider the market meltdowns, bank crashes, eco-political instability, and not to mention the devastating fallout of the 9/11 tragedy. “There will always be ups and downs. It takes adaptability,” points out Socciarelli. 

 

“There will always be ups and downs. It takes adaptability”

 

In 2004, they walked away from tender work, turning their focus to residential development, and have never looked back. “Compared to the demands and relentless scrutiny of public works, this is a piece of cake,” Arduini says. The company is now focused on multiple-phase constructions, notably Le Marquise, Cavendish, Innova, and Les Tours Saint-Martin.

The two balance partnerships with foreign investors as adeptly as they do family relations. “We set everything up for our Chinese partners on the YUL condo project,” says Socciarelli, “and cultural orientation was never an issue.” Arduini explains that the secret is “looking for commonalities rather than differences.”

Every builder, regardless of cultural background, loves the thrill of creation. “It feels good to create something, see the result, never mind how big or small,” says Socciarelli. It’s about building a utopia, it would seem. Arduini says he’d love to build a “happy city” characterized by places where people could converge – with piazzas, frothy fountains, roundabouts in lieu of traffic lights, sweet spots of green breaking up asphalt parking lots, and “real bicycle paths.”

 

written by Loretta N. Di Vita