5 on 5 with Cantarella & Son, Inc.
Contractor to Contractor
By Tim O’Toole
The Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) recently sat down with Paul Cantarella, President of Cantarella & Son, Inc., to discuss the history of Cantarella & Son, Inc., challenges he’s faced, and the future of the masonry industry.
MCAA: Tell us about the history of your company.
As C&S had mostly worked in New York, Cantarella & Son, Inc. was started to handle the work load in Massachusetts, with 4th Generation Mason Paul Cantarella, Jr. leading the company. Today, the companies do business in MA, NY, VT, and CT.
Well known for our work ethic, quality of work and above all, our safety, the companies have a long list of repeat customers that include colleges and military institutions. One of our latest completed projects for the University of Massachusetts had a little bit of everything: large granite pieces at the base with a mix of brick elevations and limestone that was from Spain.
With the ever changing masonry market, we keep our crews up to date on training for any new products or material, which allows us to ensure quality work for our customers.
I eat, sleep, and live masonry. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I have been going to job sites since I was 8 years old. I would always get to go out with the shop guy to make the deliveries to the jobs. I quickly learned you have to be up very early to be in this business.
One of the best parts is driving around with your family and friends and pointing out all the projects that have been completed by the companies throughout the years. Time flies, and its amazes me all the time how many projects we have worked on. It makes you realize what an important role masonry plays in our society.
MCAA: What do you think has been the key to your company’s success?
Cantarella: Two reasons. Number one is family! Being a family business, your employees become family. Many have been with the company since I was a kid and are like uncles to me. With a family atmosphere, we all have the attitude that we are in this together and that we have each other’s back. It all starts at the top, which means the leader needs to lead by example. Growing up in a family business with plenty of talented masons in the family, I learned a lot of good and a lot of bad. This has allowed me to take the good and get rid of the bad when I started Cantarella & Son. The old days of yelling were not what I wanted. My goal has always been to make a work environment that people want to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. Yes, I do realize you’re not going to get out of bed and do a cart wheel ,but you want to get up and go to your job.
Number two, growing up in this trade in the '80s and '90s, I was able to see that safety was taking a back seat to profit, which I never understood, since you need your crew healthy to make a profit! So safety has always been my top priority. I think invoking a safe atmosphere and making your leaders know that they have the power to stop a job and make it safe before proceeding builds a strong company. People like working where they know there is good safety culture, which helps us retain the top workers in our area. Safety always!
MCAA: What advice would you offer a budding mason contractor?
Cantarella: My father’s favorite saying is, “Bigger isn’t always better.” Trying to grow your company too fast is not always the best path to success.
You also need to build a crew inside the office and out on your jobs that will follow you as their leader and trust the decisions you make. Your office manager and estimators/project managers are an important part of the team, same as your crews out in the field. If both don’t trust you, then you will never grow your business or be successful in this trade.
MCAA: What do you feel is the masonry industry’s biggest challenge in the future?
Cantarella: In my neck of the woods, it's young people wanting to get involved in the trade. I think a lot of people think you need to go to college to make good money. You can live a good life in this business and provide for you family. There needs to be more emphasis on training the next generation of men and women.
Also needed is getting the word out about masonry. Growing up where I live, you never heard about masons. When growing up in school, you would always hear about the electrician, plumber or carpenter, but not a mason. And when you tell most people you’re a mason, they think you just build chimneys for a living. I think most people don’t really realize what an important part masonry plays in building their community.
MCAA: What is your favorite aspect of being a member of the MCAA?
Cantarella: There are a lot of aspects I like, so choosing one is hard, but having to pick the one that is most helpful to members would be the amount of useful information they provide on their website.
I always say I’m not the smartest mason but I read a lot. They have every aspect of the trade covered. Safety forums, technical talks on new products, tools, materials, the latest masonry news, and one of my favorites, the live webinars which cover all the previous topics and then some. Add to that a great group of people willing to help you and your business grow, and at the same time fighting and promoting to keep the masonry trade at the top of the building industry!
Joining the MCAA or your local chapter of the MCAA will pay off instantly as all their tools will be available to you.
About the Author
Tim O’Toole is the Director of Marketing, Education, and Information Technology for the MCAA. He has a Masters in Business Administration from Webster University and has worked in the masonry industry since 2003.