Gordon James

Gordon James
Gordon James in the News
Housing First Minnesota

Introducing John Quinlivan as Housing First Minnesota’s 2023 Board Chair

As board chair, Quinlivan will help provide strategic direction for the over 900-member trade association during his term. Quinlivan has long been active in the association, and he has served on the association’s board for several years as a builder member.

As an industry leader with more than 15 years of experience in the homebuilding and remodeling market, Quinlivan brings unique experience to lead the association. He is prepared to help the association continue its efforts to bring the housing industry together to advocate for housing and homeownership in Minnesota.

“It is a challenging time for building and remodeling in Minnesota, while interest rates are impacting the market, we still know we need more housing at all price points,” said Quinlivan. “I’m pleased to take a role in helping our industry find solutions to these challenges so we can continue to provide homeownership opportunities for Minnesotans.”

John Quinlivan of Gordon James

Out of the mouths of babes, life-changing advice

John Quinlivan’s executive job kept him on the road most of the time. After a comment by his 6-year-old daughter, he knew it was time to go in a new direction.

John Quinlivan allows as how there was a load of “personal angst” attached to a job that kept him away from his wife and two young children three weeks a month.

The breaking point came late in 2004, when Quinlivan, a vice president of national accounts at Qwest Communications, returned from a week in Boston just in time to catch a flight to Utah for a skiing vacation with his family. After he changed his clothes in his SUV and boarded the plane, his daughter, Lauren, then a precocious lass of 6, chided him in startlingly mature terms.

“She said, ‘It’s not normal or healthy for a grown man to be changing clothes in his car,’” Quinlivan recalled. “Then she added, ‘Oh, and by the way, you missed the father-daughter night at school.’”

That was it. Within weeks, Quinlivan quit his job and embarked on a career for which he admittedly had minimal training: He founded Gordon James Construction Inc., a Maple Plain general contracting company that uses the first and middle names of his late father. His background in the field: His father was a contractor, and Quinlivan had managed construction of a coffee shop that he and his wife, Kimberly, own in Maple Plain.

Despite his lack of experience, plus the lingering decline of the housing market and the collapse of the economy, the company thrived: Revenue climbed from $1.6 million in 2006, the first full year of operation, to $3.6 million in 2008, and continued growth through 2012.

Not bad, considering the industry is in the midst of “a very trying time, with a lot of competition for a much smaller piece of the pie,” said David Semerad, CEO of Associated General Contractors of Minnesota.

So how did Quinlivan beat the odds? On top of the decision to target both residential and commercial projects, 18 years in sales and sales management taught him the value of attentive customer service. It was confirmed by an informal survey he conducted.

“Whenever I was in the coffee shop, I’d ask people who had built new homes in the area whether they’d hire the same contractor again,” Quinlivan said. Out of 100 people queried: “Thirteen said yes and eight said maybe,” he said. The 79 who said no cited late completions, over-budget expenses, and unresponsive follow-ups.

It gave Quinlivan his strategy for building his business on word-of-mouth. Attorney Jason Pfeiffer was impressed: “He was personally involved from the design phase to the lot selection to the construction,” Pfeiffer said of his home’s construction in Orono. “And from a pricing perspective, he worked hard to push the costs to where they needed to go.”

In short, Quinlivan “listened and he understood what we wanted,” Pfeiffer said.

Gordon James operates the same way it did when everything began in 2006 – attention to clients’ detailed wants, quality construction, and communication. Give us a call and you’ll understand why word-of-mouth referral business is our best marketing.

Stay in Touch With Us

Sign up to receive the latest news, updates and inspiration from our team.