Companies are created for many different reasons. To fulfill a gap in an industry. To be one’s own boss. To gain recognition. For Haselden Construction founder Jim Haselden, it was to put his kids through college.
When Jim was just 15, he needed to get a job. Living in Texas, he started working on water rigs, then learned the carpentry trade from his grandfather. He enlisted in the Air Force and fought in the Korean War, after which, he was stationed at Lowry Air Force Base. While here in Colorado, he met his wife, Millie, to whom he has been married for over 60 years.
Building a Family Business
After leaving the service, Jim put his carpentry skills back to use working at Bickel Construction. Knowing that putting three boys through college on a carpenter’s wages would be tough, he got together with his friend Bud Langley and started Haselden-Langley Construction out of his basement in 1973. Their first project was the construction of the Leyden garage.
Byron Haselden, Jim’s youngest son and our current CEO and president, recalls not being allowed in the basement when he was little because that’s where the office was. When they moved to their office on Iliff and Valencia, Byron remembers pitching in along with his mom and brothers to help clean it in the evenings. “We were the janitorial staff,” he jokes. “I was 7 or 8, so I was assigned vacuuming duty.”
The whole family working together towards a common goal is par for the course for the Haseldens, and their motto is “there’s no such word as ‘can’t.’” Even going back to Millie’s mom, the determination and drive of this family is unmistakable. In the 1940s, Millie’s mother—a widow with six children—ran a successful dairy farm. A woman-owned business was practically unheard of in those days, much less making a go of it during those trying economic times. Millie and Jim together made a formidable team, and they, too, survived tough economic downturns, including seeing their company through several recessions. Millie noted, “90% of the time, if we did anything, we did it as a family.”
Boot Before Suits
A unique aspect of this family business, is that the each Haselden is required to start at the ground level and work their way up. This ensures they understand all facets of the business and appreciate the hard work that goes into each step of the process. Byron started as a laborer when he was a teenager. “I can remember scraping down the walls in a stairwell at the Hampden Inn with a putty knife, prepping for paint. Even then I knew I liked building and working with tools,” he said. Jim didn’t push his kids into it, but Ed, Mike, and Byron all followed in his footsteps. “I’m really proud that my three sons all work together and took my business over,” stated Jim. And now one of his grandsons and one of his granddaughters are also working at Haselden full-time, with several other grandchildren interning here.
That Leyden garage project? That was Ed Haselden’s first project. As the eldest of the three brothers, Ed took over as CEO when Jim retired in 1993. Mike Haselden, the middle brother, served as COO, and the together the two grew the company exponentially through the late 1990s and 2000s, transitioning leadership to Byron in the late 2000s. Ed and Mike are still involved in the company, mostly with the development arm.
According to gaebler.com, family businesses account for 50% of the U.S.’s gross domestic product, 60% of U.S. employment, and 78% of new jobs. A common statistic is that 30% of family businesses advance through the second generation, 10-15% to the third, and 3-5% to the fourth. Haselden is currently thriving under the leadership of the second generation, with the third generation committed to the future of the company. A 2013 Forbes article (“The Facts of Family Business”) noted, “The biggest issue with many family businesses is that they get stuck doing things the same way they have operated for years even when the business out grows that structure. The founding generation holds on to the reins of leadership too long and won’t pass control to their children.” So how did Haselden avoid this pitfall? “Dad was always very grateful,” said Byron. “And he was always looking for the next thing. I can remember as a kid, he had one of the first actual car phones – not a cell phone – and we had an IBM mainframe the size of a room. He’s not afraid to try new things and that is a trait he’s instilled in his kids and it’s been passed down to his grandkids.”