Last year, Tommy Dwyer and Sean Clune were named the newest leadership of Clune’s New York office. They took over the reins of a region where the pace and demand is unlike anywhere else. Despite taking over such a key market for Clune, they haven’t lost sight of what’s really important, both at Clune and in their own lives. And neither of them has lost sight of their strong Irish lineage, or their love of New York.
What is your favorite sport to watch or play?
Tommy: My days of playing sports are pretty much reduced to maybe a game of table tennis, a game of pool or something to that effect. What sports would I watch? I watch some soccer games. Maybe a Yankee’s game if I was really pushed, but it’s too slow for my liking. And any of the Gaelic games from Ireland would also be in my wheelhouse of interests.
Sean: I love all sports. Any Chicago team I’m a big fan of. I love the Cubs. Not so much the White Sox. But the Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears…I watch as much as I can. Now that I’m in New York, I can’t watch Chicago sports as much as I’d like to though. I also watch all the Irish sports. I grew up with an Irish family, so watching Dublin GAA, the Irish National Soccer Team was a big part of my upbringing.
What’s the best vacation you ever took?
Tommy: My wife and I went on our first trip to Bermuda. It was the very first vacation we went on. It was also the first vacation we could afford. I just couldn’t get over the beauty of Bermuda. It’s still one of our favorite places to go when we want to just get away somewhere. That was our first real vacation ever, and it was the best one ever…because it was the first.
Sean: I always have a yearly vacation to Ireland to go see family. I’ve been doing that since before I can remember. You know I’ve gone so many times, that I can’t really pick one specific trip. I’ve had other vacations as well, but the yearly trips to Ireland to see family really stand out for me.
Tell me something about you that most people don’t know?
Tommy: Not a lot of people know I play the accordion. Starting at nine years of age there was an accordion strapped around my back. I actually got to be very good at it. In my earliest careers in New York, I had a band going. But then I quickly understood that family was my priority – my wife and my kids. So I looked at where the music scene could take me versus having a job, insurance and real money. I put the music on the back shelf, and it’s been on the back shelf ever since. But music is a side of me that is very deep.
Sean: I was actually born with an extra thumb. I was born with three thumbs. My mom has photos of when I was a baby with three thumbs. They decided to remove the third one at some point. I must have been acting up and they chopped off my thumb. So now I’m very limited in my movement in my right thumb. I like to blame my terrible handwriting on that.
What is your favorite city in the world and why?
Tommy: This is a very tricky one for me, because pre-COVID, it was flat out New York City. Greatest city in the world. City that never sleeps. The city where you could find any cuisine from any culture. I’m was proud to say that I lived here, have worked here, and raised my family here. We were the strongest example of how all cultures in the world could all work together with one harmonious goal of being the best. It’s my only wish that it can return to what it was. I don’t know of any other place that even comes close.
Sean: I’m torn always between Chicago and New York. They’re very different places. People always ask me to compare the two, and you really can’t. There’s no comparison for New York City. Just the sheer size, which is why I love the city. But Chicago’s also home, and there’s that Midwestern kind of feel.
Another place, not really a city, but if I had a favorite place in the world, it’s a small island off the coast of Ireland called Inisbofin. Where we’ve been travelling ever since I was a kid. Even my Dad’s dad travelled there. It’s an island of 100 people. When I was travelling there as a kid, they had one car on the island. It hasn’t changed much in the last 30-plus years. It’s a unique place in the world, so that would be my favorite.
What is unique about working in the construction industry in New York?
Sean: It’s hard for me not to compare it to Chicago. It may sound like a cliché – but the pace. You think Chicago is a big city, which it is. But there’s no comparison to coming out here. It’s the aggressiveness of the pace. All of the clichés that you say about New York outside of work all apply to the construction industry as well. The pace here is unlike anywhere else.
Tommy: What’s unique about working in New York is that most of your work involves vertical transportation. Not that that doesn’t happen anywhere else. But in New York, your average building is 50 floors. So very heavy planning and coordination is required. When your project is under heavy construction throughout the job its normal for all deliveries to start at 7:00 am. But I’ve been on jobs where it had to be built into the contract that we start at 5:00 am. I’ve arrived at these jobsites at 5:00 am, and in some cases there’s already trucks lined up around the block. That’s unique. And that’s New York. What’s unique is the demand and expectations that we have to meet here. The level of professionalism that we have to present in everything we do. And we have to overcome some enormous expectations with traffic, transportation and vertical transportation. And how do we play nice in the sandbox with everyone who’s trying to achieve the same thing…with two elevators in the building.
What has been your proudest moment a Clune?
Sean: It’s hard to pinpoint just one moment. I’m always grateful to be at Clune. I recognize that my last name is also Clune and I’ve been lucky enough to work in several different parts of the country and to work with so many different people that are in this company. I’m proud and grateful to have built those relationships and I’ve made so many friends. I can’t pinpoint a single time. I’m proud and grateful for all of it.
Tommy: It’s very similar for me. Because I can’t identify one big moment. It’s a continuous reflection of how far the company has come. Some of my proudest moments have been watching team members and staff that came here early in their careers develop into really talented professionals that are killing what they’re doing every single day. It’s because of the demands and expectations they are placing on themselves for all the right reasons. You continuously get those moments of pride that hit you.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from Mike Clune?
Tommy: The best lesson I learned from Mike Clune is one of the best lessons I’ve learned in life. It was prior to me coming to Clune, when we were finishing a job when I was with my previous company in the early 1990s. Mike was overseeing a project I was working on as a client liaison. He made me understand that it wasn’t my employer that was my boss. My boss was my client. If I could do everything the client needed me to do every single day, then they could not consider anybody else but me to be the person they wanted to work with on any particular job. That was the start of knowing I could control my life, my destiny and my future. The future was within my control if I wanted to seize it. I realized I could provide service in such a way that the client couldn’t do a project without us. When I understood that, I understood everything.
Sean: Well he’s my Dad so there’s countless things I’ve learned from him just in life. I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for him. He taught me to always do the right thing, and be humble. I’ve also learned to tell a good story when I need to as well. Yes, it’s unique, and I could go on forever. But I wouldn’t be who I am without him.
What makes Clune Construction unique?
Sean: I’m sure this is a common thread, but it has to be the people. Everywhere I’ve been as part of this company there’s an authentic camaraderie. People really seem to enjoy working with each other. They genuinely care about each other. Since I’ve been here in New York, I’ve heard horror stories from other people who have worked for other GCs in the city. I’ve heard stories of animosity, of fear and intimidation. That’s not who we are. Our culture is – we work hard and play hard. But beyond that, there’s a genuineness and real appreciation of each other and I think that’s what separates us.
Tommy: Just looking back on the Leadership Summit we just attended, where every day the consistent theme was trust and respect for each other. This all emanated from Clune’s original leadership, and it’s what has always been taught by Mike. That feeling that we’re a national company with so many offices, working in so many different states, yet we’re still a company that has a family feel. This is a rarity…bordering on non-existent. That’s the uniqueness you get here, and that’s what makes Clune so special.