Building on his success
Jake Gibson traded his engineering classes for a career in construction, and he never looked back. Here's his story.
As a freshman at Purdue University in Indiana, Jake Gibson sat in his engineering classes, bored to death. He had a decision to make: Pick a new major and stay in school with his parents’ support, or drop out and face the world on his own.
He chose the former. His engineering classes had focused on theory, but Gibson delighted in the hands-on. “Seeing the concepts become the reality—that’s the thrill of it,” he explains of what quickly became his passion. “I switched to construction management.”
And he never looked back. Though his prior experience included tinkering with repairs around the house, he quickly gained new skills fulfilling his field requirements for a school internship at a custom homebuilder. During his last year of college, he switched to the commercial side and found he enjoyed the business-to-business projects even more. “Controlling the flow of the entire project through the design and build was really appealing to me,” he notes. Gibson graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Building Construction and Management in 1997.
Although by this time Gibson had plenty of construction experience, he explains, “The business side is a different animal.” Earning his master’s degree gave him insight into other areas of business, such as accounting, business development and business management. It helped him communicate better with clients who weren’t familiar with the construction process.
Despite his entrepreneurial debut coinciding with a major economic downtown, Gibson prevailed. When he began, he had just one employee: himself. With no staff or stand-alone office, he only had to worry about paying his own mortgage.
“A lot of other companies were having to lay off employees and build whatever they could,” he says. In a way, he explains, the business climate forced him to focus on excelling at customer service. He also made sure to do business with companies and individuals with whom he had mutual respect. “That helped us,” he says.
Gibson Commercial Construction now employs 21 people, and its projects cross a range of industries in a number of states east of the Rockies. Clients include private racetracks, health care, agriculture, and retail and restaurant establishments.
Gibson has strived to create a strong culture of teamwork in his company. He also makes it a priority to train his employees well and provide them with professional development opportunities. With a strong team in place, he’s working toward his future goals.
“We really try to focus on the skills and qualifications of our superintendents because they represent us out in the field,” he says. “We have some aggressive growth plans.”
For Gibson, the road to entrepreneurial success was paved with common sense. “There’s no magic answer,” he says plainly. “Make more than you spend, work hard and focus.”