LandSouth is celebrating its Silver Anniversary this year. In honor of the significant milestone, James Pyle, LandSouth’s President and CEO sat down with the Marketing team to reflect on the beginning of the company, the people instrumental in its success, and how the company is building momentum for the future.
1. Looking back at 1997-1998, what inspired you to start LandSouth Construction?
At that time, I was fortunate to have a client called LandSouth Development, owned by Jim Daws and Jeff Tucker, who offered me several multifamily projects in Atlanta. As my relationship with Jim and Jeff grew, starting a construction company turned into an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. Together, Jim, Jeff, and I formed the Triple J holding company for LandSouth Construction, a third-party construction company separate from LandSouth Development.
Preston Hills in Buford, GA was LandSouth Construction’s first project and is still our biggest project to date with 464 units.
While getting LandSouth Development work was easy, I was hungry to expand the LandSouth Construction business with third-party work. I eventually bought out my partners and started on a course that has brought us here today.
2. At the beginning, did you imagine celebrating your 25th Anniversary? What was your #1 goal?
When I started the company, I never thought twenty-five years ahead. My #1 goal was to make the next year better than the year before. I wanted to earn third-party work, branch out, and create lasting business relationships that could equate to repeat business. Today we have 22 active projects and over 100 employees. I am so proud of what the company has grown into.
3. Who was your biggest supporter and gave you the big push?
If not for the encouragement and strength of my wife, Janice, there would be no LandSouth Construction today. She supported my every move. Without her complete backing, I wouldn’t have made the leap of faith to start the company. The early years were not easy. I traveled all the time, and she was at home raising our three young children. 2023 is a big year for us, as we are not only celebrating LandSouth’s 25th anniversary, but we are also celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary as well.
4. What challenges did you face in the beginning? What did you learn?
In the early days, I traveled weekly between Pensacola, Atlanta, and Jacksonville. Everyone thought I was a developer, and it took a while to convince potential clients that we were a general contractor. I wanted to build relationships, perform great work, and obtain repeat business. That goal became a reality when I began working with Integra Land Company. Fast-forward to today, and we have just broke ground on Integra Heritage Apartments, our 31st project together.
The next challenge LandSouth faced was in 2008-2009 when the Recession hit. We were fine at first and continued construction on our active projects. Then about 2010, the market dried up and everything changed. Our only job was Regal Oaks, a renovation of a timeshare project outside of Disney World. Jason Cromer and Duke Overstreet were on the project. The client was Club La Costa from Malaga, Spain and other than learning how to measure by the metric system – it kept us alive. The owner said we could do what we wanted with the existing appliances on the property, so Duke sold them. When I visited the site, Duke handed me wads of cash. That got us through some rough times, and memories of the project still give us a good laugh today.
In the construction business, there are always going to be obstacles. I will always remember those hard times and how we got through with a team effort. In 2011 we had $3 million in revenues, and this year we are targeted for $700 million. Perseverance pays off.
5. When do you feel like LandSouth arrived?
Around 2015 – 2016, we jumped from $80 million in revenues to $200 million. I knew at that time LandSouth was a little different, and we needed to treat things accordingly.
Building on that change, I feel more recently we arrived in 2021 when we updated the company’s Mission Statement to Transforming Ideas, Building Communities, Developing People. I feel like it articulates life at LandSouth. For me personally, I see it in three phases:
- Phase 1 Transforming ideas – planning and working with clients is where I gravitated toward, and I have always enjoyed building relationships.
- Phase 2 Building communities – which we do physically, also philosophically in the Field and the Office.
- Phase 3 Developing people – my stage of life now, and the most important thing to me.
Forget revenues and profits, revising the Mission Statement has helped build a clear vision of what LandSouth stands for and our goals for the future. It will foster growth for years to come.
6. Can you name a few people who made a huge difference for LandSouth in the early years?
Phyllis Hollingsworth was LandSouth’s first employee. I brought her over from my former company and she worked for me for ten years as an Assistant – she did absolutely everything. Phyllis was truly missed when she retired some years ago and now lives in Washington state.
Dana Webb is “the rock” of LandSouth. She has been with the company for almost 18 years and continues to do it all. I cannot say enough good things about Dana – she has my full trust and faith. She is dedicated to LandSouth and has the pulse of the company. She is our VP of Finance and the heart of the company. Some may not know, but Dana is my niece through marriage.
Jason Cromer is the “bulldog” of LandSouth. Seventeen years ago, my old partner, Jim Daws, had a nephew, who was getting an MBA at Georgia Southern and needed a job. I brought Jason on, put him in the Field, and was unsure he would last. Jason started in New Smyrna, worked his way up in all facets of Operations, and is now our Vice President of Preconstruction. He knows LandSouth from the inside out and is focused on bringing in new and repeat business.
7. What makes you the proudest when thinking of LandSouth in 2023?
This year we are more intentional with our strategic planning than ever before, and we’re acting on our goal of developing people. I will be the first to admit I am not the most patient person, and I know doing this the right way takes time. We now have a team dedicated to this goal. Under the guidance of Jessica Howard, our People Development team consists of Josiah Jackson, Stefani Dos Santos, and Jaclyn Myers. I have been impressed with the behind-the-scenes work this group has done. They plan, develop, test, execute, and ask for feedback – all before officially launching a new program. This thorough approach ensures success in developing people via Training, Mentorship, Internships, and so much more. I am personally participating in the Mentorship program, and it has been a huge success so far. Being involved in this new initiative is a fulfilling benchmark for the next phase of the company. I am enthusiastic about the participation of those involved.
8. What makes LandSouth special? What is the secret to the success?
LandSouth is special because of its dedicated people. The secret to our success is our culture. We’ve always had a good culture, but this year we are making it great. We are embracing momentum, development, and growth. We are holding people accountable, respectfully saying goodbye to those on a different path, working hard, and playing hard. We are proud to say LandSouth is a place where you can grow your career and enjoy your work family.
9. Our Word of the Year for 2023 is Momentum. What does that mean to you?
For the 25th Anniversary, Momentum was chosen as the Word of the Year as it speaks to what actions are needed to propel ourselves into a promising future. I love the Word of the Year since it applies to everyone at LandSouth – those in the Field and those in the Office.
Field Teams: In working with Subcontractors, we are only successful when we have production. We must do everything we can on a project to build that momentum that fuels production. That momentum, along with everyone on the same page, working together, accomplishing goals, and meeting deadlines, equates to profitable and successful projects.
Office Teams: We are starting to build momentum with our developing people goal. While we are growing our revenue, our focus for the future is strategically developing, training, and supporting our LandSouth people. If we keep this momentum on track, we will have all the opportunities in the world.
Everyone has a personal definition of success. But we can agree you have to love what you do for a living to be successful. We are creating the momentum of a positive work environment, finding solutions to problems head-on, and challenging everyone to work to the fullest extent of their abilities and strive for excellence.
10. What do you see for the future of the multifamily industry?
I used to be able to predict the building cycles, which were historically feast or famine. Back in the day, you could build 5,000 units in one year, and 0 the next, which is hard for an operational company.
Recently, for the first time in 40 years, the demand in the multifamily industry has been like never before. Homeownership has decreased, mortgage rates are higher, and luxury apartments are much nicer with great amenities. The freedom and relaxed lifestyle apartment living offers is attractive to those of all generations.
There has been a lot of building in the last two to three years. The industry has been profitable, and investors are now starting to readjust to a slowing market. I believe the starts will slow down in 2023, but will pick up again in 2024.
LandSouth is in a great place right now. We have all the work we need and will be ready for what the future brings.
11. What do the next 25 years look like for LandSouth?
The legacy of LandSouth is the embodiment of our living, breathing Mission Statement. My major goal is that 25 years from now, the younger people who are just starting here will be leading the company. With the momentum we have now, I know that is possible.