VICTORIA – “There’s no such thing as a self-made man.”
For Sean Burkhart, this famous George Burton Adams axiom describes his success to a tee.
His company, Burkhart Construction Management, has thrived and grown over three short years, thanks to mentorships, friendships, and partnerships Burkhart has built and maintained.
The company specializes in project management for commercial and residential construction and renovations, and has managed several major restaurant and storefront renovation projects.
“My general philosophy of life has to do with creating and building a key network of people,” says Burkhart. “I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now, and my business would not be successful if it wasn’t for the relationships I’ve built along the way.”
Burkhart has been around construction for almost all of his adult life, surrounded by family members who have been in and out of the industry.
Raised in Edmonton, his family moved to Greater Victoria in the late 80s.
“For most of my career, I focussed on sales and marketing,” he says. “I was never much of a hardline closer. I preferred to focus on relationship building and talk business at the end.”
He eventually took on a position with Stanley Tools, where he built a number of connections in the construction world.
Burkhart eventually took on a position with his father-in-law, who had been building in Victoria for over 20 years.
“He took me on as a mentor,” says Burkhart. “With him, I learned how to manage projects of all different types and budgets. I learn quickly when I’m immersed in unfamiliar environments, so it was an ideal situation for me.
“I was doing a bit of everything. I was coordinating with architects, overseeing trades, and estimating for just shy of four years.”
After the company closed down, Burkhart decided to stay in general contracting, utilizing his years of mentorship and experience.
“During this time, I was able to discover a style of managing projects that came naturally,” says Burkhart. “I don’t come in as though I have all the answers. I’ve found more success from asking questions, pulling out some ideas from others to help fix issues when they arise.”
Shortly after this transition, Burkhart was offered a job to manage a small residential renovation.
“After the initial project, we had a big opportunity to renovate the Loghouse Pub,” he says. “The project essentially propelled us to where we are today.”
For the early projects, Burkhart took on a project management role, hiring all the trades on behalf of the owner and ensuring the quality of the job as construction progressed.
“I’ve learned a lot about my own sense of style, passion, and drive,” says Burkhart. “In my role, it’s critical to listen, answer, and ask questions. I’ve found that leading this way empowers others to excel in their individual roles.”
The company has since grown, and now includes a larger staff and more equipment. Some members of Burkhart’s family have come alongside the company, including his parents, Rod and Debbie.
He subcontracted his uncle, Brian Krechuniak, for the Axe and Barrel project, who has has since taken on a role as a key foreman for the company.
In addition to his own staff, Burkhart works closely with some local contractors that he has come to trust and appreciate.
“Adam Windram of AW Woodworks is an absolutely fantastic millworker,” says Burkhart. “There’s nothing he can’t do. I work with him as much as possible.”
While renovating Axe and Barrel, he worked closely with Keir Lewis of Lewis Sheet Metal, among many others, who stuck with Burkhart through the ups and downs of the project.
Burkhart works closely with Ken Boyechko (Brewis Electric Company), Nick McClymont (Edgar & Miner Floor Coverings), Hughes Halm (Hughes Painting), Kelly Darwin (Seriously Creative), Ricardo Pontedura (Premium Tiling), Dave Spiers (Dave Spiers Plumbing & Heating), and others.
“I’ve been working with many of these companies for years, and they are generally considered for all of our jobs,” says Burkhart. “Each of them have been critical to my personal success and the success of my company.”
Since the Loghouse project, Burkhart Construction Management has been hired for several major residential and commercial projects.
“We just concluded work on The Farmer’s Daughter, which is a fromagerie and wine bar in Sidney,” he says. “Our company was hired as a design-build contractor, so we were able to help the client get a plan in place and realize their vision for the space.”
The Farmer’s Daughter features a retail fromagerie in the front, where they sell artisan cheeses and sandwiches, and has a sit-down wine bar in the back.
“We were very passionate about the project and worked well with the client,” Burkhart says. “The client had a lot of ideas to help us create the overall look, and we feel proud that we were involved in the project from start to finish.”
So far, Burkhart Construction Management has found a niche in the world of restaurant construction and renovation. They are preparing to manage the construction of a new restaurant in the downtown area, and have an ongoing commercial relationship with Saigon Char Broil, a chain of Vietnamese restaurants.
Burkhart is always thinking about what’s next for his company.
“We’ve been involved in a couple of accessibility projects, specifically in residential spaces, where a home needed work to accommodate a customer’s disability,” he says. “I’m still exploring that area, as I’d love to offer those services more. These types of project tie in to one of the key things that drives me: seeing the enthusiasm around what we’ve created.”
Though many of Burkhart’s projects are met with enthusiasm and appreciation, he particularly loves the feeling of making a space functional for somebody with accessibility issues.
“This is an area where we want to expand our horizons and better our community through our work,” he says.
Additionally, Burkhart is wanting to expand his company’s capacity to work on new builds, whether custom homes or large-scale developments.
“We’re capable of taking on these projects, but don’t yet have the right people in place for the day-to-day house building and framing,” he says. “Right now we use subcontractors, but we’re looking at different ways we can offer a more comprehensive service.”
Burkhart believes that the success he has achieved would be impossible without the help of key people and the power of generosity.
“I’m reading a book called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, and a lot of what he says validates many of my personal experiences,” he says. “The book references a quote by George Burton Adams: ‘there’s no such thing as a self-made man.’
“If you look at any successful business person, leader, or athlete, or anyone who’s happy with their life or career, they all got there because of their relationships with other people. The idea of true individualism is an illusion.”
The book emphasizes that generosity is the key to true success in life, and Burkhart has found this principle to be true in his own experiences.
He gives an example: “throughout the past three plus years we’ve been in business, I can’t count the number of times people have asked me to share information regarding the architects, electricians, etc. that I work with.
“I freely share that information without feeling protective of my sub trades, and without asking for anything in return. I’ve found that the more I share, the more success I see.”
Burkhart’s philosophy of generosity infiltrates every area of his business. He pays his employees and sub trades as soon as he possibly can, and will pay them ahead of schedule if he’s able.
“We treat people the way we want to be treated, and they treat us well in return,” he says. “The reason our company is successful is because of these people.”