We sat down with Ben Pruski, General Manager of Burke Pruski, to talk about his powder coating business and how the family dynamic works in his business.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Hey guys, welcome back to the show, Texas Business Radio. We are talking family businesses today and we have a number of them. Family businesses are not easy to do and it’s something a lot of people get wrong. But not very often is it that the second generation is, of a company is the guys you would hire off the street to go do that job. Right? And successful do it. They’ve got to be willing to do it, they got to be able to do it. And that’s not a very common commodity to have in the second or subsequent generations of businesses. We’ve got a bunch of them here. I think you’re really going to enjoy it. I’m your host Matt Register, here as always with Jay Curry. Jay what do you think?
Jay Curry: Absolutely. I’m with you 100 percent. I’ve always thought that it would be easier to start a business on your own from scratch than to take one over. For various reasons that are human nature. But around here we’ve met some people who are second, third, fourth generations. That’s difficult. And there’s a lot of good best practices to learn from.
Matt Register: Yeah. No doubt. OK, we have Ben Pruski, who’s the general manager of Burke Pruski Metal Fab and Powder Coating, out of San Antonio Texas. Ben how are you doing?
Ben Pruski: I’m doing well. How are you guys today?
Matt Register: Doing wonderful. Welcome to the show. Tell me a little bit about Burke Pruski. What do you do? Who do you do it to?
Ben Pruski: We, we make sheet metal fabric. Were a sheet metal fabrication company. So, what we’ll do is we’ll fabricate all sheet metal; form it, punch it, assemble it, put hardware in it, if needed and then we have the capability then to put it on our powder coating line.
Matt Register: OK.
Ben Pruski: We can do any type of powder coating that you’re looking for. We have one of the most versatile lines in South Texas, I believe. We are able to change colors in less than five minutes. Which is not very common in our industry.
Matt Register: Sure.
Ben Pruski: And so after it’s been powder coated, we take it a step further. We like to finish the product out for customers. We want to put any stickers on it that need to be done. Sight glasses, whatever else needs to be done to it. And then we put it in a box ready to go for a customer. So, one of our big customers… we put everything together and we box it. We test their motors out. We close it up. And what they…they just send it out. They tell us what’s shipping out. They send us the stickers that day. That’s, that’s our shipping.
Matt Register: Okay, you just drop ship directly to the distributor or wherever it is going. That’s… that’s very interesting. Talk to me a little bit about how you guys got started in that business. Because this business hadn’t been going for that long. You’re a fairly new business.
Ben Pruski: Our business has actually only been going for six years now. But my father, Jim Pruski and his, his business partner Michael Burke, they were part of the KCI people in San Antonio. And my dad started the metal fabrication company almost… probably about 26 years ago now. And he, he started it from scratch and ran it for years. And then Michael Burke came in and became his boss and they had a great working relationship. So, they, they kept it growing but they kept seeing that the ups and downs of the medical industry. What they did is they made hospital beds, the wound vac, different things. They… the ups and downs caused them to either be laying people off or then hiring. Laying people off, then hiring. So, they decided to contract their sheet metal shop out to San Antonio and the surrounding areas. Brought in almost $3 million dollars worth of work over the course of five years. Now, take it down the road a little bit. Mr. Burke decides it’s time to retire. So he leaves KCI. My dad steps into that role, runs it for another two years, he retires. Then after about two years later, after they’ve both been retired, someone else came in to KCI and they shut it down. They shut the plant down here in San Antonio. All those contract customers that they had brought in, they didn’t have anywhere to go. So they were calling my dad out for, you know, we’ve got to, we’ve got to figure this out. Where do we go? Where do we go?
Matt Register: So, so his company built a sheet metal shop to service their own needs but their own needs didn’t fill up the shop. So they got extra customers to come in and fill up the shop. Subsequent decision was made to drop that, right, and just go hire it out and have somebody else produce it. But now all of a sudden you have a bunch clients, bunch of customers, that don’t have product. Right?
Ben Pruski: And they shut them down completely. They say we’re not building any more products for, in four months. That’s it. You’ll get no more products. So, nobody knew what they were going to do and I was really messing up their supply chain. So, my dad called me out of the blue. I just graduated from college, a biology major. I was thinking, you know, M-CAT. Or do I go medical?
Matt Register: Which is exactly what you need to do, sheet metal. Right?
Ben Pruski: Yeah exactly. So… but I grew up on a farm. I knew how to cut and weld. And that’s exactly what I told them. I said “you know, I know how to cut and weld, right?”. And he goes “we’ll figure out the rest. I’ll teach you”. So, I said “absolutely”. So, I jumped in, I came in July. They found it in February of 2011 and it was foor, it was four employees, including the including the owners. And we were out there doing all of the work. We ran all the machines, we did everything. And slowly, the first guy I hired actually is now one of my supervisors. He’s a, he’s a great guy. So, we’ve been able to grow with these people and, and basically become just, it just blew up.
Jay Curry: Pretty phenomenal growth.
Ben Pruski: It really has.
Jay Curry: Great story.
Matt Register: So talk to me about the transition, right. Your dad and his business partner kind of started it. You were involved in the founding of it. But, but at some point they transition that company, because your dad and his partner are retired for the most part, correct?
Ben Pruski: Right. Now they still own the ownership part of it. I just jumped into where… they wanted to kind of go back to being retired but they still it… their philosophy was it’s better to invest in, in me and the company. So they put their money and they basically, they trust me with their money.
Matt Register: Sure.
Ben Pruski: They get a return in their investment. Instead of putting it in a bank. Especially when things were, the oil field was starting to collapse.
Matt Register: Sure.
Ben Pruski: Stocks were going lower. So, they still own the company. But I run the complete day to day operations. I have to consult with them on bigger things that come through. But as far as how it’s run and the way it goes. I have a lot of free reign.
Matt Register: Wonderful. Well, hey, good news. And the Web site is Burkeandco.com burkeandco.com. Correct?
Ben Pruski: That’s correct.
Matt Register: Guys don’t even attempt to write that. We’re going to have links from our Web site at texasbusinessradio.com. burkeandco.com. Ben Pruski is the general manager of Burke and Pruski Metal Fab and Powder, Powder Coating out of San Antonio. Ben, thank you very much for joining us.
Ben Pruski: Not a problem. Thanks for having me guys.
Matt Register: All right guys. Hey, we’ve got to go to break. Pay a couple of bills. We’re going to be back right after this. Don’t go anywhere.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.