Young blood in construction

John C. Wood operates some of his excavation equipment. Wood has been in business for just over three years, but has already established a strong foundation in Louisa County.

Getting a business started in any field can be challenging, and it can be especially tricky for young entrepreneurs. John Wood is no exception.

Wood started his business, John C. Wood Construction, in August of 2016. He’d graduated from Virginia Tech that May with a degree in forestry and spent the next three months working in an office before deciding to make a change.

“I couldn’t stand sitting at a desk,” he said. “I decided to give [construction] a go while I was still young.”

Wood is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who worked in the field for more than 70 years before retiring in 2008.

Initially, Wood primarily did agricultural construction, installing fences and water systems for farms. As Wood expanded the business, he began to focus more on excavation, clearing lots for houses and driveways, and grading land for homes where necessary. He also does work on Lake Anna properties, installing riprap, bulkheads and other kinds of shoreline stabilization. He still does agricultural work and has removed some houses and barns as well.

“I enjoy seeing what you can do, changing the land,” he said. “You can see pretty much immediate results in what you do.”

Now that he’s more established, Wood hopes to keep his focus on the services he already offers rather than continuing to add new ones.

“I don’t want to say that we do everything and not do it well,” he said. “I’d rather get better at what we do.”

Starting his own business wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t cheap. Getting start-up funding was difficult, as most institutions were hesitant to lend him money because of his age.

“It’s kind of an expensive business to get into, so it takes some time and some patience [to get started],” he said.

Getting the financial start wasn’t Wood’s biggest headache in getting into construction. That honor goes to the certification process. While there are programs that teach people seeking their certification everything they need to know, Wood couldn’t afford to take advantage of them and had to “do it the hard way” by studying on his own.

The challenges didn’t end there. When Wood was first getting his business started, he had several clients look at him “a little sideways” because of his age.

“When you’re trying to give them recommendations, you kind of get a look, like [they’re thinking] there’s no way you know what you’re talking about because they’re twice or three times your age,” he said. “That can be a bit of an issue at times.”

Over the years, Wood has generally gotten good feedback for the work he does. Part of the way he’s achieved that is by making sure he gives his customers good advice. He’s often sought wisdom from his grandfather and his father, who has several decades of experience as an engineer, to make sure he is giving his customers the best advice for their situation.

Though he’s only been working construction for around three-and-a-half years, Wood has found steady work in Louisa and the surrounding counties and has been able to expand his business. For him, that has been the most rewarding part of the experience.

“[I like] getting to work in the county where I grew up and work with people and try to do the best work that we can,” he said. “That’s what makes me happy, just to go out and work.”

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