Bore-Tek Overcomes Challenges, Obstacles, Tragedy

December 2008 Vol. 63 No. 12
Bore-Tek workers on site

Establishing any new business is a major decision, and once the company is in operation, guiding it to success means overcoming a variety of challenges and obstacles, many of them unexpected.

Those who choose to start a utility construction firm recognize there are variables not found in other fields – the weather, permitting and regulatory issues that must be taken into account on every project.

In May 2000, three South Carolinians decided it was time to stop working for others and apply their experience and knowledge to their own directional drilling business. With one compact drilling unit, one truck and one trailer, Bryan Williams, Terry Thompson and Eric Lovell started Bore Tek Inc. in the city of Charleston.

The timing seemed right. The telecommunications building boom of the late ’90s was still under way. Construction of Level 3 Communications’ new 15,000 mile long haul network was not yet complete, and there appeared to be plenty of subcontracting work for small horizontal directional drilling (HDD) companies.

Getting started

However, getting started wasn’t easy, recalls Thompson, current Bore-Tek president.

“From the beginning,” he says, “finding financing for our business was difficult. We had no track record. But we were determined. The drilling unit we wanted – a Ditch Witch Jet Trac JT1720 – was for us the biggest initial investment. Our equipment dealer – Ditch Witch of the Carolinas – recognized our commitment and took a risk by internally financing the drilling unit’s purchase.”

A month later the new company got it’s first HDD project and, with its one employee, traveled to Charlotte, NC.

The job did not go well.

“We were booted out of the state after we released drilling fluid collected from the job site at a location where we were unaware that dumping was prohibited,” says Thompson. “Then on our second job in Atlanta, we drilled into solid rock, destroying our only drill bit. Our first year was very discouraging.”

Still, the three persisted, taking projects in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida with what Thompson describes as “minimal” success.

“Leaving damaged utilities in our wake, we knew it was time to regroup,” he continues. “It was time to ‘do or die.’ Money was so tight, we sometimes slept in our trucks. We challenged ourselves to learn from our mistakes and not be discouraged by them. Knowing there was demand for work in our industry, we were determined to put ourselves in a position to be successful. We really had no option but to make the business succeed – everything we had was invested in it.”

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