BWiC Profile Featuring Briana Colantonio, Business Development and Marketing Specialist, Colantonio, Inc.
For generations, family-owned construction businesses would commonly be passed down from father to son. Sons were expected to join their fathers as young adults and eventually take over the business to maintain their families’ legacies or, at times, to keep the family peace. Nowadays, most sons and daughters are encouraged by their parents to explore their talents, interests and career opportunities – as Briana Colantonio was - regardless of their parents’ business ownership. In Briana’s case, her path away from the family business has led her back home.
Briana’s father, Fran Colantonio, CEO of Colantonio Inc., started his carpentry business in 1978 and has grown it into a $75 million preconstruction, construction management and general contracting firm, employing 45 professionals and craftspeople. Growing up, Briana and her two brothers witnessed Fran’s passion for his work, the positive impact he made on his employees and on the relationships he built.
As a young girl, Briana came home from school eager to go to the “shop”, the building on their property where her father’s business was based at the time. She would spend the afternoon working on small projects with her father. She loved working with her hands, fixing things, and learning all kinds of valuable skills most young women - or men, for that matter - would ever need, such as welding and changing the oil in her car. Though Fran may have seen Briana’s potential as a future leader of the company, he and Briana’s mother, Lisa, always encouraged her and her two brothers to discover their own passions.
Briana took her time finding her passions while studying at Fairfield University. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in Spanish, but decided she didn’t want to stop there. She earned a master’s degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology at Sacred Heart University while working grueling night shift hours as a mental health counselor at a psychiatric facility and as a full-time nanny. Using her education in business psychology, Briana shifted her career into the nonprofit sector working with youth as she managed the marketing, human resources, and events planning of the organization. After three years of managing multiple, low-paying jobs and “burning the candle at both ends,” as Fran puts it, Briana began to acknowledge her suppressed interest in having a role with Colantonio Inc. and was swayed by the excitement of the construction process from start to finish.
Briana and her father discussed what to do next and what kind of role would most effectively enrich her growth within the company. They agreed she needed to learn all aspects of the business and the industry, and that she should begin by experiencing the roles and responsibilities of each of the firm’s department first hand. Starting as an office assistant and human resources representative, she was learned about day-to-day operations. Shortly after, she transitioned into a role as an assistant superintendent working with both a project manager and project superintendent to understand the complexities of a construction site and project. She now works in a business development and marketing role, using her creativity to design ads, plan events and manage the wellness program. She attends industry workshops and events to network and develop valuable relationships.
Briana says that she is amazed by all there is to learn about the construction industry and has benefitted from the natural teaching abilities of her experienced colleagues. She values the experiential learning and the ability to “get her hands dirty” both on a jobsite as an assistant superintendent and at her desk designing ads. She admires the degree of technical and artistic talent that go into a construction project from start to finish. She continues to push herself to learn and absorb all that she can from the industry and is excited to see what comes next.
Having worked with her father for almost two years, Briana is constantly impressed by Fran’s critical leadership skills and his generosity, while maintaining his toughness. She understands that his talent for developing a vast network and nurturing those valuable professional relationships took time and hard work. So when asked if she has plans to take the company over one day, she explains that it would be considered far down the road. If it were a possibility, she would clearly need to take her time immersing herself in learning the industry’s ins and outs.
As of now, Briana is earning her MBA at the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College, where she is focusing on family entrepreneurship and incorporating her education into her work at Colantonio Inc.