Burks brothers join forces – eventually – and grow successful company
It took a while, but Don Burks finally talked his brother, Jim, into starting a drywall business together. The two had been working for drywall companies for several years, with Don focusing on residential projects and Jim working on commercial jobs.
Jim liked what he was doing and declined Don’s offer for several years. But in 1985, he agreed and Burks Bros. Drywall was formed.
“I think my uncle got tired of my dad asking and finally agreed,” said Mike Burks, a second-generation co-owner of the Yorkville, Ill.-based company, which serves the Greater Chicago area.
It was a good decision, as Burks Bros. Drywall has become a long-running, successful business. When they began, the Burks brothers were focused on residential projects – “that was their bread and butter for quite a while,” Mike Burks said. “When they started, the housing market was really starting to get going again, so there was a tremendous amount of residential work that was going on at that time. They were very busy.”
Busy in the warmer months, that is. In the winter, however, business slowed and the Burks looked for other avenues to keep their staff working year-round.
“They decided to bid on a few commercial jobs in the winter so they could keep everything rolling throughout the whole year,” said Mike, who joined the company in 1990. “We started with one or two jobs in the winter, and then the next year it turned into three and four, and then five and six, and it just kind of kept growing. Before we knew it, we were doing more commercial jobs than we were residential.”
Today, Burks Bros. averages between 25 and 35 employees and focuses 90 percent of their business on commercial projects, which have expanded outside of the Chicago area.
“We go as far north as Wisconsin, as far east as Indiana, and as far west as Iowa. And we’ve gone as far south as Peoria, Illinois,” said Mike, who with his brother, Brett, took over ownership of the company when Don and Jim retired in 2007.
“We do a lot of school work, a lot of projects for several different school districts throughout the collar counties (the five counties that boarder Chicago’s Cook County).
“We do jobs from as little as a few hundred dollars to $2 million.”
Giving back to the community
As a board member on the Chamber of Commerce in Yorkville, Mike said he is involved with a variety of projects in the city of more than 18,000.
He said Burks Bros. has been longtime supporters of the local youth athletic teams, because “we always try to give back to the community as much as we can.”
Burks Bros. has also partnered with First National Bank to help fund athletics in the Yorkville School District through the First National Bank Challenge. That effort is part of an ongoing relationship that began with Don and Jim Burks.
“When my dad and uncle started the business, that’s where they went for their first loan,” Mike said. “And we’ve been with them ever since – we’ve never gone anywhere else.
“Anytime we’ve gone to them to talk to about expansion or equipment, or with something to that effect, they’ve always been willing to sit down with us and talk about it, and we’ve always worked out a solution. I mean, they’ve been a tremendous partner.”