Creating Opportunity Cassie Hodges  | August 30, 2017

Post Retirement, This Entrepreneur Created a “Best Place to Work”

This month, we’re introducing some of America’s most inspiring entrepreneurs by interviewing all 18 finalists for this year’s Dream Big Small Business Awards. The awards program honors the achievements of some of our nation’s most remarkable small business owners and celebrates their contributions to the American economy. We’ll be spotlighting a different finalist every day between now and the Small Business Summit 2017, where the winners will be announced (register to attend here).

The company: Tar Heel Basement Systems

Who’s in charge: Pete Burgess

Where are they: Winston Salem, NC

What they do: North Carolina’s largest crawl space and basement contractor

Q: How did your company get started?

Pete Burgess:  I had retired too early and was eager to find something interesting to do with all my time. I just happened upon the introduction to the idea of controlling moisture in a vented, dirt floor crawlspace and found it compelling. I tried it in my newly built home, found it highly effective, so opened up my business to share the idea and benefits of controlling moisture. Luckily, I became involved with Basement Systems, Inc. of Seymour, CT. who was developing a network of independent dealers to sell and install the means to control moisture. By controlling moisture, the floor framing above dirt crawlspaces will be much less susceptible to decay from mold and fungus, the air that emanates from the crawlspace to the upstairs will be drier and healthier, and the crawlspace will become a part of the total building envelope resulting in significant energy savings.

Q: What barriers have you faced while building your company and how did you overcome them?

Burgess: The biggest barriers have primarily been expansion capital and finding those “A” players. I personally financed expansion before the banking relationships developed and I urged my “A” players to recruit rather than use recruiting services.  I recruited people every day, wherever I would go (restaurants, hardware store, church, park, etc.) – wherever I met new people.

Q: What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur?

Burgess: There are many, but every day when one of my employees smiles and thanks me for his/her great job is a proud moment. I am proud to have been voted one of 17 most admired CEO’s in our marketplace, and having our company win Best Place to Work in our marketplace. We are a service business so we are a people business. I love it when customers write handwritten letters to us to express their appreciation of what we were able to do for them.

Q: Tell us about your company’s role in the community. How do you use serve your hometown?

Burgess: Our Pay It Forward Initiative was established in 2012 and every month we help a different non-profit organization. Monthly projects include hosting a field day for local senior citizens at the “Project on Aging,” a school supply drive for the Educator Warehouse, cooking meals at the Ronald McDonald House, a blanket drive for the Hospitality House, donating & installing over 50 crawl space encapsulation systems to Habitat for Humanity homes, hosting a blood drive at our facility for Community Blood Center of the Carolinas, hosting an educational program for ABC of NC and Big Brothers Big Sisters, a food drive for Feeding Southwest Virginia… just to name a few. Our team has volunteered and donated to close to 50 non-profits over the last five years. I’m proud to say that our Pay It Forward initiative has been recognized and published in the Business Journal and Philanthropy NC.

Q: What does it mean to not only have created your own job, but to also create jobs for others?

Burgess: To be able to give nearly 100 employees a well-compensated, fun and safe place to earn a living is the most satisfying thing about what I do.

Q: What would you do if you won the Dream Big Award’s $25,000 grand prize?

Burgess: If we win the Dream Big Award’s grand prize, we will invest it in our employees. Every year we have our annual Kick-Off Event, which allows us to reflect on our purpose as a company, celebrate the previous year’s victories, launch our goals for the upcoming year, facilitate a tremendous team building session and finish with a celebration in the evening. We will use this money to build on that event for our team and their families, because we feel that our employees are our biggest asset. We invest in people – employee satisfaction results in employee loyalty, which produces employee productivity, which establishes value that satisfies customers, which results in loyal customers who then refer the referral, thus reducing marketing costs while also increasing lead generation creating profitability and growth (“Service Profit Chain”). By creating a fulfilling work environment for our employees, we are creating a better experience for our customers and continuous success for our company.

Q: What’s your best advice for other small business owners who want to Dream Big?

Burgess: Learn from those who have gone before you. Ask for advice from successful people, set goals, delegate intelligently, recruit people who can do the job you are doing better, watch your cash, know your breakeven point, understand that it could take years for your startup to gain traction.

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