Jessie Ladson already had been steeped in the construction contracting field before he opened his own business, Ladson Construction.
He now realizes he never has had to work harder.
Ladson, 34, had a stable career with Gilbane Construction, an established group with projects throughout Florida.
He left all that in 2018 to open his company.
“I felt like I was starting over, completely. I left a really good-paying, comfortable future with Gilbane. I still think the world of them,” Ladson said.
A native of Callahan and graduate of the University of North Florida with a bachelor’s degree in construction management in 2009, Ladson went to Orlando for Turner Construction.
There, he did civil work on roadways and bridges and moved into commercial work.
He then joined Gilbane. After he married, he wanted to return to the Jacksonville area.
While he was a project manager and worked on Disney projects, the company agreed to relocate him to Jacksonville where he handled several high-profile projects, such as Johnson & Johnson and St. Vincent’s Hospital.
“It got to the point where I was managing the project managers,” he said.
Ladson earned a contractor license and was starting work and housing construction on the side.
It was time to start his own business while his wife urged him to break away.
“I knew what I was capable of. It’s just that I was very scared,” Ladson said.
“So, I ended up making the jump, gave my two weeks (notice),” he said, “cutting the cord and I made the jump.”
Almost four years into his new business, Ladson has had to relocate his 11 employees into a 5,500-square-foot building he bought in June 2021 at 4069 Atlantic Blvd. in the St. Nicholas and Empire Point area.
It is more than double the size of his previous 2,300-square-foot space at 8940 Western Way in the Baymeadows area and it offers room to expand.
He continues to add employees to the team and is expanding offices for the projected growth in the upcoming months.
Meanwhile, Ladson is carving out his niche in the Jacksonville market.
“We do not do any residential. It’s all commercial. We’ve got individuals and teams that are dedicated to smaller tenant improvement projects that range from $50,000 upwards to $1 million,” he said.
Ladson Construction also works on new construction.
Most of that focuses on office renovations from carpet replacements to corporate clients who want service on any scale.
“Despite our growth here, we’ve got a team dedicated to serve our core clients despite the size of the project,” Ladson said.
“They get the relationship, they know the process, the way we work.”
Ladson Construction focuses mainly on serving as the project manager for its clients, including hiring subcontractors and third-party contractors to do most of the work.
He said it was difficult to penetrate the market, but he said he essentially relied on traditional approaches.
“We start with core values, integrity, honesty, personal responsibility and we hire on the core values,” he said.
“Those people are authentic, they’re honest and they’re very transparent in what they do.”
That’s the basis of the company’s strategy. It does not market heavily and instead works by referrals.
“That’s all we do anymore, 90% of our business is based on referrals, word-of-mouth,” Ladson said.
The strategy seems to be paying off.
In 2021 Ladson Construction generated $7.9 million in revenue, up from $3.6 million in 2020 and $750,000 in 2019.
Ladson projects $30 million in 2022.
That doesn’t surprise Micheal Burt, Ladson’s business coach for about two years.
“Jessie is both humble and fierce. Meaning he’s hungry, humble and very teachable. But he’s got a fierce intensity about him to take action on what he’s learning,” Burt said.
“He comes to certain coaching events and he locks in and he goes back and executes. That, at the end of the day, is where the separator is,” Burt said.
Ladson and his wife, Kristen, have a 3-year-old daughter, Emilie, and the family lives in Callahan.
Ladson said he expects to fill additional positions for project management and field supervision.
“We’re not in a sweet spot yet. But I think we’re about to locate it. We’re getting more ‘nichey,’” Ladson said.
”One thing I’ll never be is complacent.”