Opportunities and challenges-in business, as in life-often go together. Patrick Jordan, president of R. F. Jordan & Sons Construction, Inc., has seen plenty of both while working at his family's firm. But in his years at the helm, he has managed to guide the firm through uncertain economic times to unprecedented growth.
R. F. Jordan & Sons does a wide range of site preparation work for private and public customers from its base in Ellsworth, Maine. Patrick's late father, Ronnie, the company's founder, credits his son's aggressive attitude and hard work with leading the company successfully into new areas during the 1990s. "When he stepped in, he really took over," Ronnie said. "He got up early and went to bed late at night."
Patrick, in turn, says the foundation laid by his father and the lessons learned at his father's side made it all possible. "He gave me a good opportunity, a good name, and a good establishment. It was just a lot of hard work and great, dedicated employees." The family tradition goes back well beyond his father, he pointed out.
"My father's father, Asa Jordan, always had a dump truck, and my father always worked with him. He plowed roads and did state jobs." Before that, Patrick's great-grandfather, Harley Grover did work for the state, hauling materials and plowing roads.
"Harley started with horses," recalled Ronnie Jordan. "Then he bought a Chevy truck with a wooden dump on it." Ronnie's father, Asa, bought a used 1942 truck to continue the family business. Maintaining relationships that began four generations back, R. F. Jordan & Sons still plows some of the roads and communities that great-grandfather Harley did, the younger Jordan notes with pride.
Ronnie and Ann Jordan started the company while Ronnie was working for the state of Maine, building the business until he retired. "I started off with a little rubber-tired backhoe and a seven-cubic-yard dump truck," he recounted. His two sons, who were still in school, both helped when they could.
"I always worked in the family business," said Patrick. "My father had a couple of towns he plowed, and we did residential site work and projects like that. We just kept growing."
Until the early 1990s, the company remained a small firm with fewer than 10 employees, including Ronnie, Patrick, and Patrick's mother Ann. "My mother always did the books while my father was out on the job." Patrick said of the early years. Like Ronnie, Ann is now officially retired. "But she's still around just like my father is," Patrick jokes.
A turning point came when Jordan began bidding on larger-scale jobs. "Once bonding was in place we could bid bigger jobs and we hired an estimator/project manager," Patrick said. "We grew with the times. We do a lot of high-end residential homes in Bar Harbor and Ellsworth."
Although the company still plows snow, Patrick described the firm today as a site-work contractor. "We do residential subdivisions, road projects, sewer main projects and water main projects." The company also owns three gravel pits where it crushes rock for its own use. The mix of projects is about half public entities and half residential work for longtime contracting customers, Patrick said. "My father started with some of these customers 25 to 30 years ago. It's been a big help to us as far as quality of work that we have always done for them, getting it done on time and on budget."
R. F. Jordan & Sons now does everything from thousand-dollar jobs to multimillion dollar ones, Patrick says. Along with two mechanics, the company employs 55 to 65 people working in six crews. In a typical year, Patrick noted, the company handles about 300 projects.
Growing into a multimillion dollar enterprise presents plenty of challenges, Patrick acknowledged. "It's a competitive business, and you've got to know where your costs are. You've got to have key people in the right spots and the right equipment in the right place to make everything work."
"Hiring good people makes a successful company. Getting the key people in the right places has been very important to the growth we've had in the last 10 to 15 years."
One of the people essential to R. F. Jordan & Sons' smooth expansion is Buddy Palmer, hired as an equipment operator. "He worked his way up to superintendent and now runs projects," noted Patrick. "He tends to the day-to-day operations of the residential end of the company. He's a dedicated employee and has been a big part of our success."
Five years ago, R. F. Jordan & Sons hired the team of Jim and Shirley Cameron, who brought a wealth of experience. Jim is a project manager and estimator who has worked in the construction field for more than 30 years. "He's been a big help in the utility business, the sewer and water main projects. He's been a real teacher for us. He does all the estimating and project managing for bigger jobs."
Jim's wife Shirley has been a whiz in the office, especially in implementing the company's Timberline computerized job-tracking program. "She brought experience with that system and got it up and running. Now we track costs on all our jobs very closely. That's been a big part of our success too."
Patrick cited his dedicated and loyal crew as key contributors to the company's success in recent years. Patrick's wife, Rhonda, also helps out part-time by acting as company treasurer and handling job costing and payroll.
"Making the best use of new technology is another ongoing challenge, as is learning and understanding the economy the best you can," Patrick noted. That's where the company's diversity of projects - from very small to very large - has helped. "We like to keep it that way, so when the economy goes up and down, we can stay busy."
Like his father and grandfather before him, Patrick worked with his father from a very young age and learned a work ethic that has always served him well. "He taught me that when you go to work, you do a good job and you do what you say you're going to do. That was a guideline."
Today, Patrick Jordan is instilling those values in his own children. "I have a fifth generation coming along," he says proudly, " including my daughter, Bridget, and twin boys, Patrick Orion and Ronald Asa." They've already started running around with him on jobs, he said, and he looks forward to the day when they will carry on the R. F. Jordan & Sons name and tradition of success.