Toby Leary is doing exactly what he set out to do as a 5-year-old growing up in Cape Cod.
WHETHER LEADING THE charge as the prime contractor or serving as a specialty sub on any given job, Toby Leary Fine Woodworking delivers some of the best woodwork available throughout New England. Considering Toby Leary is in the midst of the career he had dreamed about since he was a preschooler, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We have historically performed residential finish trim and cabinetry to builders, homeowners, designers and architectural firms, and that is what we are best known for,” Leary says. “We pride ourselves on collaboration with the whole team to bring about challenging projects on time with expert craftsmanship.”
Leary knew when he was 5 years old that he wanted to be a carpenter and builder, but he didn’t begin his formal training until he was a freshman in high school. He convinced his father to send him to Cape Cod Regional Technical High School because of its carpentry shop. As a junior, he landed a job as part of a co-op, working for a local builder during his shop week and returning to school for academics the next week.
“This was a great way to learn by on-the-job training as well as earning a paycheck while going to school,” Leary says. “This taught me to work hard and be employable in the marketplace.”
Upon graduation, Leary took a job with a high-end custom homebuilder, where he worked seven years before deciding to set out on his own. He launched Toby Leary Fine Woodworking Inc. in 2003, and today Leary has 15 full-time employees.
Although Toby Leary Fine Woodworking’s core competency is high-end residential remodeling and interior finish trim, the company has expanded into some new and exciting markets.
Over the last seven years, the company has expanded its business to include a state-of-the-art custom cabinetry shop. Toby Leary Fine Woodworking now builds for clients some of the finest custom cabinetry and furniture available in the region.
The company also launched a retail division as part of its shop. Through the store, Toby Leary Fine Woodworking sells Farrow & Ball paint and wallpaper, Top Knobs hardware, Showplace custom wood cabinets, and Visual Comfort Lighting.
Opening its own shop is one of the ways Toby Leary Fine Woodworking has been able to stay on top of changing design trends in its region.
“We have seen the market change a lot from really traditional New England style to a more transitional style with the occasional modern or contemporary design,” Leary says. “We have stayed at the forefront of design trends and have had some great opportunities to work on some really special projects.”
One such special projectpresented a bevy of challenges not typically found in Toby Leary Fine Woodworking’s job sites. Leary says this home had multiple hidden doors and cabinets, custom spiral staircases, and a window’s walk hatch that was designed to resemble a sailboat galley.
“This was a fun, unique and challenging project with an aggressive schedule that doesn’t come around often,” Leary says. “It was one of the largest millwork packages we have done to date, and it needed to be done to the highest quality in a relatively short schedule.”
To stay within budget and on schedule, Toby Leary Fine Woodworking was able to give fixed-cost pricing to the building, which allowed the company to build in extra labor costs to cover the overtime that was necessary to deliver the project by the aggressive deadline.
“We stayed ahead of any standstills with weekly meetings to get questions answered and to clarify the details that were unclear,” Leary says. “We learned the importance of getting timely information from all the parties involved and frequent communication.
“This is where our project manager really helps a project because he/she anticipates questions about design details and identifies long lead-time items,” Leary adds.
Leary says he encourages his employees to be free thinkers and problem solvers in order to keep his business from becoming stagnant.
“This is a progressive company that expects professionalism out of our employees and trade partners,” he says. “Most of what we do is prototypical by nature and requires our staff to rise to the challenge. This is something truly exciting about our industry and company – no two jobs are ever the same.”
In order to nurture this environment, Leary says he promotes self-motivated individuals with strong leadership skills into management positions.
“I will never quench someone who wants to learn more and make themselves a more valuable employee or tradesman,” Leary says. “We like to retain the top talent, so we reward our employees accordingly.”
Beyond New England
Retaining top talent is part of Leary’s strategy for geographic expansion throughout the United States. The company also is working on acquiring a new building to expand its shop capabilities to meet demand.
“I want to see us serving the entire continental U.S. with our fine cabinetry and millwork,” he says.