Jimmy Gallagher was just a kid growing up in Long Island when his dad handed him a shovel and said, “Dig.” Dig he did, helping to create a water main as part of a project for his dad’s ASAP Construction company. Digging turned into driving trucks, operating heavy equipment and, eventually, learning every aspect of running a successful business. Except for a six-year stint as a Naval engineer, working for and then running a construction company is the only job Jimmy’s ever known.
Today, nearly forty years after buying the business from his dad, Jimmy is still immensely proud of his long-standing family business, his countless building projects and his ongoing commitment to his Long Island small business community.
Jimmy, you’ve worked and lived in same community for decades. What’s that like?
In the Navy, I was an engineer on Poseidon submarines. I could have gone anywhere after that, but I chose to come back to the community I grew up in. Our company is still in its original location. I have a huge network. I know everyone in the town halls. I still work with contacts from my dad, and he’s been retired for 30 years now.
The opportunities here are limitless, even though it’s harder than ever for small businesses to get licenses, insurance, that sort of thing. The government makes it tough to run your own business these days. If you weren’t brought up with it like I was, I can’t imagine starting out on your own.
You must have seen a lot of changes in your industry.
The biggest challenge is in plumbing. There must be tens of thousands of new parts and items, as well as all the new building codes. I just try to convince people I know what I’m doing! My guys like to laugh at me. I send them to school to make sure they know everything. My days of going to school are over.
Has your approach to marketing changed over the years?
I hadn’t advertised in almost 30 years. I’ve gotten most of my work through word of mouth. But the climate is changing. Now we have a website, and ASAP Construction is listed in local periodicals.
My best marketing strategy is being very aggressive when I’m interviewing for a job. Thanks to my work in the Navy, my education is superior to most people in my industry. I win big jobs because I ask a lot of questions. I come back ten times to walk the property and understand the project. I look at the schedule and figure out how to save time and money.
You know, I had open heart surgery a couple years ago. Since then, I’ve wanted to get more regular income without killing myself every day. For the last couple of years, I’ve been getting more service trucks out on the road.
I’m still up at 4:30 a.m. pulling permits, doing paperwork and getting everything ready so I can meet the guys at 7:00 a.m. But I’ve got two young kids, so I try to be home for dinner. That means I keep up a fast pace all day long.
It sounds tough. What keeps you motivated after all these years of hard work?
Thanks for my mother and father, I learned from a young age that a strong work ethic is crucial to success. It’s really necessary – I love my job, but when things are bad, they’re pretty bad. You’ve got to be willing to do a lot of hard work.
Fortunately, I’ve been in this business for a long time now, and I still love to build things. I love every aspect of what I do. I can still stand back and look at a building we put up and say, “Look what we’ve done today.”
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