Partner in Craft Spotlight: F.H. Perry Builder
Our Partners in Craft program recognizes corporations and small businesses across industries that support the School.
We spoke with Allison Iantosca, President and Owner of F.H. Perry Builder, about their synergy in working with NBSS, advice for our graduates, insights from the building field, and more.
How did you discover the School?
It’s always been in my awareness. But I think someone from the School had reached out to F.H Perry in recognition of us as an established entity in the residential construction world, and that there might be some interest in crossover. From there, Finley Perry—who’s our founder and my dad—agreed. He’s always been so craft-oriented and really believed in the mission of the School; but even more in the focus on excellence and respect of what it is to work with your hands, and to connect your brain to your hands and heart. That led him to get on board with trying to connect the School to other people in the industry. So we’ve maintained a connection from the outset, as soon as we knew of each other.
Why do you support NBSS?
A couple of reasons. One, what I’ve learned being in this industry is that those who work with their hands work with their hearts. And it’s a special place that can create an environment where that is openly on display, and teaches the creative notion of what it is to take a skill and get really good at it.
I believe skill and talent is something that is innate, but North Bennet creates a space where, if a trade or craft is in your heart but not in your hands yet, there’s a way to teach skill building so those two things merge, so you can create what you imagine. You can explore it, and come as you are to be an artist or a craftsperson, because it speaks to you and it’s meaningful to you. From novices all the way to the people who are able to do these incredible things. It’s not an either / or.
Second, is that it cannot be overlooked: the more we get into tech and the more we get into artificial intelligence and the further away we get from head, hands, and heart—actually creating and crafting from that perspective—the more necessary NBSS will become. I can never take for granted what you do programmatically because it is absolutely necessary for what I do and what F.H. Perry does. For me, to see it and not be part of it would be so short sighted.
What has been your experience working with NBSS grads?
They are value-filled and impactful members of our community, immediately. They show up, and right out of the gate, they have an impact on our organization. They are skilled human beings, in both their awareness of how the world works—their curiosity, their exploration, their humanity—as well as what they bring to bear in talents and skills. They immediately take on and live in our culture as a company. And we are a company that focuses on leading with heart, and being very human-centric. They’re just high caliber humans that I love!
“I’ve learned being in this industry is that those who work with their hands work with their hearts.”
What is an interesting trend in your field you’ve noticed recently?
I’ve noticed, in a positive and optimistic way, that there are a lot of young people who are very smart and very energetic—and very interested in this industry—who are willing to dive in and take on whatever we present to them, and learn while doing. And that is not necessarily a new notion, when you think back to apprenticeships.
But what’s interesting to me is that there’s so much noise about millennials in the workforce: only being concerned with salary amounts and vacation days, only seeking white collar work and sitting in an office, not wanting to work with their hands, etc. And I notice the opposite. I notice young, very hardworking, very dedicated people who want to grow and want to learn, and they actually ask that of us. They want to be mentored, to be put on jobs and stretched, and they want to grow inside the company and see where they can get to with a learning path.
Complete the sentence: If I wasn’t in the building industry, I’d be a _.
Well, I want to be a backup singer, but I can’t sing [laughs]…
But to a certain extent, I’ve been lucky enough to do what I think I have been meant to do up to this point. What’s so cool about this industry is that it lets you invent yourself as you go along—it allows for building and creating not just buildings, but ourselves. So I’ve been inventing and reinventing anytime I feel like it, which is so wonderful. I’m a CEO / writer / coach / facilitator / ideator, all at the same time.
What’s the best thing that you’ve read recently?
Could be a whole book, an article, or any other bit of whimsy, information, or inspiration.
Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, who is a restaurateur in New York City and other places.
He talks a lot about what it means to be in the hospitality industry, which has so many parallels to the building industry, in that we’re all trying to deliver a product and a service. And we are all in a place where our customer’s last experience was either the best or the worst. How do you write the next best chapter if you need to recreate something, and you need it to be the best, not the worst.
If you’ve had a bad meal at a restaurant, you think, “The food wasn’t good, the service was bad; I’m never going there again.” And for me that perspective is so similar to, “They were late, they weren’t on budget, they weren’t on time; I’m never working with them again, they did a lousy job.” So much of that expectation is so inherent to what we do as builders. We’re trying to create an experience at the same time as we’re trying to create a beautiful product; and where are the boundaries inherent to that.
I found the parallels so helpful and fascinating around how you need to work with your people inside your organization, to help them feel like they can give the service that they want to and can give.
What motivates you? And/or what do you love about your work/field?
What continues to motivate me is that I’m a lifelong learner. There’s no end of things to learn! And I’ve been lucky to surround myself with people who feel the same way, from [NBSS President] Sarah Turner, to my Leadership Team, to architect relationships that I have. I recognize that it’s all a bit of an adventure; we’re all seeking to get better as we go, which can mean so many different things.
That’s another one of the things I love about North Bennet Street, talk about an institution of lifelong learning! You get people who come to you at 65 and who have decided that they need to listen to their hearts and create something new. There’s another piece of our synergy there too, between our organizations. I don’t want to ever shut down the learning or the possibility of any new experience.
What life or career advice can you share with our students and graduates?
I read this quote today by Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” That notion of go be the best you, go do what you love, and the world will fall into place.
And I know it’s so terrifying to take the leap into a new journey. I’m in deep admiration of your students because they demonstrate that every day; they are taking the leap and it’s inspiring to be around that. There’s a courage in choosing to go to North Bennet. Every person that chooses to go has a story about forging a different path, or listening to their heart, or putting this priority over another and hoping that it’s going to work out. I see them recognizing that, “This is who I am and what I’ve got, and I have to do this.” It’s almost like every person starts out in juxtaposition to what the rest of the world is expecting from education today, which sets out other, much easier paths.
And it doesn’t take long for your students to start to feel confidence in their new skills. Their confidence in this being their right place is important both for them and for the world, which needs their skills. And it’s beautiful to see that coalesce.