The Helping Handyman
The Helping Handyman (Inspiration in Overalls)
by Kevin Porter
Entrepreneur Gordon Bruner channels his passion for construction into a passion for people.
When Entrepreneur Gordon Bruner reflects on the rapid success of his maintenance and disaster recovery business, four words quickly come to mind: “It’s been a blur.” At age 42, Bruner founded VMC Facilities with only $1,500 and an old pick-up truck. Today, the business has blossomed beyond his wildest dreams.
Bruner started out in business as a franchisee of a popular pizza chain. After selling his interest in the company, and a short stint as owner of a soft drink vending operation, he and a friend ventured into part-time building maintenance and Bruner formed VMC Facilities in 1998. After winning a few restaurant contracts, work became brisk as one restaurant job led to another. “In the restaurant business everybody knows everybody,” said Bruner. He spent the next ten years on the road working. Fast forward to the present, VMC Facilities has become an industry leader in restaurant repair and renovation.
“Never in a million years did I figure I would have such a great life,” said Bruner, who has always been involved in some type of construction throughout his career—sometimes simply, “just helping folks out.” At age 54, the restoration and repair guru is living the American dream. He spends his days leading his company, being the face of public relations, and staying in touch with customers. It’s a role that he enjoys. “I get to own my life. I’ve got great people working for me. I get to live my life and focus on what is important to me.”
Those great people include a dedicated workforce of over 70 professionals in a blended team of skilled subcontractors and office staff. The firm performs disaster recovery, remodel and restoration services, along with equipment installs and building modifications in nearly every state east of the Mississippi.
One of VMC’s crowning achievements is the 2010 restoration of Joe’s Crab Shack in Nashville, Tenn. After the Cumberland River overflowed its banks, the restaurant became flooded with five feet of water. The interior of the structure had to been stripped to the studs by Cotton, a mold remediation company. Then VMC went in with a crew of 34 working around the clock and was able to get the restaurant back in operation in time for a major local event known as the CMA Music Festival. “We completely rebuilt that restaurant in 21 days,” Bruner said. “They wanted to reopen in time for the festival which is a huge opportunity for folks in Nashville.”
But for Bruner, it isn’t all about the money. He recently launched a free iPhone and Android phone app called “Minutes to Save Thousands” which helps businesses better maintain their structures in order to minimize maintenance and repair costs. Being that he is in the business of maintenance and repair, one might ask: Why do that? “I’m a blessed and very fortunate person,” said Bruner. “It’s just another way to give back. For me to be a true partner with my customers I have to try to take care of them. They mean so much to me. I have their best interests at heart. We’re always going to do the right thing, no matter what it takes.”
Gordon Bruner’s efforts to give back don’t stop there. In March 2013, the entrepreneur launched a web-based motivational program entitled “50 Days, Driven to Succeed” which teaches 50 key fundamentals of success, as well as 50 specific traits of successful people. The fundamentals are delivered daily to participants via email and allow them to “listen and learn from a blue-collar guy that has had his ups and downs, and taken notes along the way.” The program was designed to be very cost-effective, combining years of observations and education into an easy-to-digest package for under $50. And by now, Bruner’s clients and associates are very familiar with his motivational catch phrase, “Hurry it up!” Bruner explained, “There’s no reason to wait until tomorrow when you can start a better future today.”
Despite the success of VMC Facilities, Gordon Bruner is constantly setting new goals for the firm and is expanding the business into the retail sector. But perhaps his most important goal is to leave a legacy. “We stand behind our work,” said Bruner. “You have to have character—that’s what sets us apart. When I’m gone from the world, I want people to think of me and smile and say ‘he was one of the good guys and he made a difference.’”
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