Cecelia “CJ” Fraser ’96 was recently featured in an “Executive Profile” article in the Boston Business Journal, showcasing her role as CEO of her family-owned industrial/commercial contracting business, Fraser Engineering Co. Inc.
The article details Fraser’s move from a career in architectural design to working at her family’s third-generation business. Thanks to her leadership, the company has continued to grow since her arrival and she was able to navigate Fraser Engineering through a particularly difficult economic period in 2009.
Fraser says she campaigned “‘like a rock star with staff members, in an effort to better understand what they did and what they needed to best perform their jobs.”
“With 109 employees and a diverse and loyal client base – one that includes Lonza Biologics, Constellation Energy, Consigli Construction, National Grid and the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Division for Massachusetts – Fraser Engineering is well-positioned to continue its growth,” the article reports, with 2015 resulting in nearly $24 million in revenue, a 9.6 percent increase from 2014.
At HWS, Fraser studied art and architectural studies. She also studied off campus in Los Angeles, Calif.
The full article is below:
Boston Business Journal
Executive Profile: Cecelia (CJ) Fraser has family-owned mechanical contracting business once again thriving
Joe Halpern • Jan. 22, 2016
Cecelia (CJ) Fraser
Title: CEO, Fraser Engineering Co. Inc.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in architecture studies and art history from William Smith College, 1996
Residence: Duxbury, Mass.
It was a challenging start for a first-year CEO.
When Cecelia (CJ) Fraser ascended to the leadership of Fraser Engineering Co. Inc. in 2009, the circumstances were less than ideal: Being a young and inexperienced CEO of a 60-year-old company that specializes in industrial/commercial contracting during difficult economic times was tough enough. But being a young female chief executive in a male-dominated industry made Fraser’s learning curve even more difficult.
“It really wasn’t a very fun time those first few months on the job, that’s for sure,” said Fraser, 41, reflecting back on when she followed her father, Lester Jr., as the top executive at the Newton-based Fraser Engineering, which was founded by Lester Sr. in 1950. “I’m sure there were a lot of people probably thinking ‘Who is this woman?’ and wondering ‘Does she really know what she’s doing?’ “
“But I also knew what I had to do,” said Fraser, who gave up a promising career in architectural design in New York City to work at her family’s third-generation business, where as a young girl she started off doing everything from painting catwalks at petroleum terminals for her father to inputting accounts payable for her mother.
A key initiative during her first few months of being named CEO, Fraser said, was to simply “campaign like a rock star” with staff members, in an effort to better understand what they did and what they needed to best perform their jobs. She also traveled to the company’s job sites to see the work the company actually did to get a more complete picture of the complex challenges of retrofitting steam pipes.
Fraser told her employees that she was in it for the long haul and committed to seeing the company get through the tough times.
Perhaps a tougher sell: She also convinced her co-workers in 2010 that a 10 percent across-the-board pay cut was a much better option than a reduction in workforce. Some production field employees agreed to cutting back to a four-day workweek. Within six to eight months, everyone was back to their full pay scales.
When she became CEO of Fraser Engineering in 2009, the firm was operating at approximately $18 million in sales, and subsequently dipped to as low as $14 million by 2013. But, of late, it’s been on the financial rebound: The firm reported nearly $24 million in revenue in 2015, a 9.6 percent increase from 2014, and ranked No. 9 on the BBJ’s most-recent list of the largest mechanical contractors in Massachusetts.
With 109 employees and a diverse and loyal client base – one that includes Lonza Biologics, Constellation Energy, Consigli Construction, National Grid and the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Division for Massachusetts – Fraser Engineering is well-positioned to continue its growth.
In fact, Fraser is projecting an additional 20 percent growth in revenue for her company in 2016 – which is even more impressive when you consider the tight profit margins that mechanical-contracting companies operate under. Fraser said that margin is typically between 3 percent and 4 percent.
“We’ve worked with Fraser Engineering for about seven years now and we consider them our go-to source for mechanical contracting work in Massachusetts,” said Marc Aronson, senior manager of business development at Constellation Energy. “They are a very professional organization, and CJ is great to work with.”
A big piece of CJ Fraser’s operational strategy has been to increase employees’ buy-in to the company’s culture through such initiatives as morning group huddles, “safety toolbox talks” and employee-recognition exercises. She’s also embraced her father’s policy of rewarding and incentivizing the company’s loyal employees with an employee stock ownership plan.
“We started off as a family business and we are still very much a family business,” said Fraser, whose younger sister, Shawna, is the company’s corporate safety officer while her father, Lester, 78, still comes into the office every day.