Some people just make it sound so easy. Take the case of Jeff Brekhus, for example. Eighteen years ago he was a mechanic for Continental Airlines when that company decided to pull out of the Denver market. Suddenly Brekhus had a choice: relocate or get another job. He decided to get into light construction.
“I did a tile countertop and backsplash out of 4×4 tile and it went well,” he recalls.
“Then I did a tub surround and a small house remodel which also went well. I hired a guy to help on projects and pretty soon that grew into 30-something tile helpers.
About 15 years ago, the day before Christmas Eve, I was picking up some material and there was a big general contractor at the store. He asked if I could do a hotel and I said I’ve never done one, but sure. We did the hotel then he got a multi-family project of high-end finishes in Breckenridge and asked me for a quote. That is how I got into the commercial world.”
Today, Brekhus Tile & Stone in Denver installs tile and natural stone in some of Colorado’s most high-profile projects, including the Colorado Supreme Court building, Denver International Airport and Union Station. Actually, the company, which does about 70% commercial and 30% high-end residential, is two companies.
“Five years ago we decided that since a lot of people asked if we did granite work as well, we would open a fabrication shop,” Jeff says. “We called it Brekhus Marble & Granite.”
There was just one catch: In order to find the time and energy to start a new company, Brekhus needed someone to run the original company. For that, Jeff turned to his wife, Kym.
“I hired Kym about nine years ago because I needed someone who could read architectural plans,” he recalls. “She was an architect who had been laid off when her firm went out of business. She said she would help out for a while until a new architect’s position came available.”
Kym ended up staying with Brekhus and, after four years with the company, she and Jeff became romantically involved. One thing led to another and the couple eventually married. A year later Jeff asked Kym to run the tile and stone company so he could focus on starting the new operation.
“She is real sharp,” he says. “I asked her if she would be interested in becoming majority shareholder in the tile company and take over running of the business. She agreed to it and I went after financing and started the fabrication business. The first year I worked all 365 days trying to put that business together. The tile business kept going along real well. Since she has been in the driver’s seat it has gone from a $2 million company to a $7 million company.”
Communication Is Everything
One of the things that sets the Brekhus company apart as a sub-contractor on commercial projects is that every job is assigned a project manager, who is on site every day and stays in constant contact with the general contractor. Additionally, Jeff is in the field every day, making sure the lines of communication stay open.
“We work on a schedule,” Jeff explains.
“That is the most important thing to a general contractor. The hands-on aspect of the ownership makes it easier to do business with us. We can make decisions on the spot and if change orders need to be signed, I am right there. I have my camera (I probably take 200 photos per day) and send photos of what the conditions really are on the jobsite to the contractor. There is a lot of dialogue going on all the time.”
“Our basic philosophy is on all of our business cards. Quality, Timely, Professional. That pretty much says it all.”
Want to know more? At Moraware, we make software for countertop fabricators. CounterGo is countertop drawing, layout, and estimating software. JobTracker is scheduling software that helps you eliminate the time you waste looking for job folders. RemnantSwap is a free place to buy and sell granite remnants with fabricators near you.