Linda Stinett - The Derby Informer

A Derby resident is blending his personal experiences, from construction management and rock climbing, into a business he and a partner started this fall.

Josh Kippenberger of Derby and Jeff Francis opened Jaco General Contractor, Inc. in mid September. Both are former Key Construction managers who had talked on and off for a few years about starting their own business. They felt the timing was right this fall.

“You’ll never mitigate all the risks of starting your own company,” Kippenberger said. “We felt we were able to mitigate as many of them as possible.”

They have no intention of working to be as large as their former employer. They have said they plan to focus on light commercial projects in their first year, even though both have led much larger projects through former employers.

“It’s a little bit different goal setting and mind-set than you typically see in business,” Kippenberger said.

They have set gross profit and margin plans and will likely emphasize their experience in the restaurant industry.

“We just want to manage growth responsibly and profitably,” he said. “Where that goes, is where it goes.”

Kippenberger said he went after his master of business administration degree at Newman University as a way to leave the construction industry. For years he had worked with his father, whose background included working with Derby’s Confederated Builders and eventually his own company, Crown Commercial Builders.

Eventually he said he believes he matured personally to the point that he realized he both liked the industry and had a personality which lent itself to good management in his job at Key Construction. He learned to cultivate relationships within the wide scope of jobs which go into any construction project.

“In my opinion, that’s the crux of being successful, especially in this industry,” he said. “You can’t do it without any of those people and it’s a wide range of personality types and competing motivations. You have to be able to get along with people.”

Now at age 39, he finds himself between two generations and said he enjoys the best of both of their worlds. He has worked with Baby Boomers, those who have offered their own wealth of information about the industry through the years and are now starting to retire.

The world is changing and he has also learned to enjoy the vibrancy and the ability to work with software and technology which the Millennial Generation is bringing to his workplace. He also has learned to work with that generation’s different views on life.

“They have a different paradigm with respect to how they view their jobs,” he said. “You have to be able to manage that balance.”

Learning to rely on others

Nearly two years ago, Kippenberger was introduced to rock climbing at the Kansas Cliff Club. The club is located at an old grain elevator on K-15, north of 47th Street.

After a few months of climbing the concrete walls, he made friends with other climbers and took climbing trips to Colorado.

“I absolutely love it,” he said. “It’s the world’s most physically strenuous puzzle every time you head up a route.”

Kippenberger said the rock climbers he befriended are highly relaxed individuals. They are people who are both physically active and learn to rely on each other to have safe climbing, a lesson which he can apply to his business as well as being a husband and father of five.

On a hastily prepared trip to Rocky Mountain National Park to climb an 1,800 foot sheer granite wall, the diamond at Long’s Peak, Kippenberger found himself hiking to the climbing area within a few short hours of leaving Kansas. He nearly made it to the climbing area when altitude sickness struck.

He turned around because a climber cannot take chances with his own life or others.

“You absolutely rely on each other,” he said. “It just constantly drills into your head that you better be calm and you better be chilled when you are in that crux.”

The sport has taught him to focus on the next step so he can rest and relax before finishing the climb. Then at the peak, he said, he can let out a deep breath and have the “wow” moment over the climb’s pinnacle.