Burton and Sons was founded at the end of 1979, and after struggling for a number of years, brothers Todd and Tim Burton — as well as their father, Albert Burton — were able to upgrade from the family garage and open a store.
They operated out of that location for the next ten years until Albert Burton retired and the brothers bought him out. A coin toss made Todd president and Tim vice president.
“That was a time of upheaval in the business,” Todd Burton says. “We pretty much coasted through the next few years until we finally found ourselves in so much debt that we wondered if we could ever get out. This was when Frank Blau was preaching the good word of flat rate pricing and we wondered if this could be our salvation.
“We took a chance on hiring a consultant by the name of Dan Berstrom, owner of the BEC Group, to help us with the transition. After a few years of sinking and swimming, we finally saw land. We continued to work with our consultant as he helped us implement a state of the art software system and computer network, create procedures and forms, write a handbook and guide us through our marketing plans.”
Focused on residential service and installation, the company has been earning double-digit profits for the past three years. They are on track to hit about $2.6 million in sales this year.
“I joined a nationwide organization of contractors called Service Roundtable,” Todd Burton says. “We joined for all the benefits of group buying with rewards, mentorship, annual learning events, tons of file sharing and daily discussion boards. We also enjoy the benefit of owners helping other owners from all over the U.S. and Canada.
“As part of my membership, Service Roundtable helped me with the new logo design and the truck wrap design. They were also instrumental in helping us come up with our new slogan of ‘Dad tested and Mom approved’ to reflect our family business and core values. We are also members of Michigan Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors, of which my brother Tim is now president of the Western Wayne County chapter.”
There are 12 technicians and 11 vehicles — two Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, five Ford Transits, and four Ford Econoline Vans. The plumbers are happy with the Transits because of all the room in the back. The extended version with the high roof allows them to stand up in the back and carry 10-foot lengths of pipe.
The heating techs prefer the Ecoline vans because they are smaller and easier to maneuver around, as they tend to do more jobs and travel farther than the plumbers. Only the 2017 Ford Transit is wrapped. However, Burton plans to wrap a few of the newer vans as well as all future vans.
“The wrap is an attention-getter because of its slant,” Todd Burton notes. “The big oval carries the logo very well, allowing simple information such as the phone number, slogan and website to wrap around it. We decided to keep just the basics. We purposely did not add any brands or QR codes or extra numbers or pictures to distract from our basics.”
Service Roundtable was the key designer Burton worked with on the new design. Before getting the vehicle wrapped, Burton did his research and selected a local company — Sign-a-Rama in Garden City, Mich. — who has previously lettered all his trucks because he wanted to be close to the process. To create awareness of the new wrap, they are currently running a contest for customers who see the vehicle to submit photographs of them standing next to it.