“It has been the highlight of my 30 some odd year career.” These are the words of Jim Wilson, President of JFW, Inc. speaking about his working collaboration with his son, Jim Wilson Jr., Project Manager of JFW Inc. The duo are the project management team behind the construction of the upcoming Capella Washington DC, Georgetown. They took some time to sit down with me to discuss working with family and this special hotel project.
What are your backgrounds and how did you end up in this business?
Jim – “I am an engineer and a large commercial construction builder. Twenty years ago I started my own firm, working as an owner’s representative and project manager for many independent organizations that don’t have a project management expertise on staff.”
Jim Jr. – “I graduated in 2007 from the University of Maryland as a Mechanical Engineer. For three years I worked for a general contractor and spent one year as an owner’s representative for the federal government. I am currently working on my MBA at Johns Hopkins University while being the Project Manager for JFW and Capella Washington DC, Georgetown.
What is it like working with your son?
Jim – “I cannot be more proud of the quality of his work and his integrity. He represents the owners and me as his father extremely well. Jim is an extraordinary individual. He is a classical pianist and a great athlete and very talented, more than I am [laughing]. He works hard to help others and is an unusually humble young man that I appreciate and highly respect. Much of his talents and smarts also come from his mother!”
What is it like working with your father?
Jim Jr. – “I love working with my dad, he’s very well respected and what I appreciate most is his high level of integrity. He has a very clear compass of what’s right and what’s wrong. I’ve always enjoyed the problem aspect of construction. Growing up watching my dad I realized it was something I enjoyed doing too. I began to understand how well respected he was and that he truly is one of the best in the field. That is the moment when I knew I wanted to work for him.”
What makes working on this project so special and different from other projects?
Jim – “This project is like building a very large jewelry box; all the details are very intricate. There isn’t a lot of repetition going on anywhere in the building— each room is unique. The wood floor for the bar is from a castle in France, and the marble stone that lays in the lobby as well as the millwork is coming from Austria.”
Jim Jr. – “I’d say the level of finishes and the beauty of the design itself. I’ve done a number of projects for school and for the government, and I have to say none of them were as aesthetically pleasing. It is something to be very proud of when we are done.”
What makes Capella Special?
Jim – “It is like the difference between being on a 747 versus a private jet, and Capella is the jet. Capella is nimble; you are dealing very, very closely with decision makers. Capella is lean in its operation and organization, you feel like this is a real team of people working together, not just working for a corporate company. There are a lot of devoted, hardworking people.”
Jim Jr. – “What’s neat is there is a real strong emphasis with the people that they are going to ultimately serve with this building. You can see it with all Capella employees; they are very nice, kind people and focused on others. I think that comes across in how this hotel is being built. There’s a focus on the person that is going to stay here, making sure the building is beautiful for the clients.”
How does it feel to see your son following in your footsteps?
Jim – “He is much smarter and more talented than I am. I just hope that I can get him started in a way that he can be as successful and influential as the Capella Canon is. We have a lot of fun and we love to laugh together. We love playing golf together and we are very, very close. He tells me he loves me every day. I hope he still enjoys it after a number of years, I don’t want to wear him out!”