Sam Burke – the UK’s Youngest Recovery Operator?

Forget Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice. The recovery industry is littered with many budding entrepreneurs who hope to make their mark and build a successful business. But when do you start? Is 15 a little young to launch a new recovery business? Not according to Sam Burke who founded Burke Bros Recovery even before he could hold a driving licence!

Sam with his first recovery vehicle.

From the age of 10, Sam spent weekends and evenings with his father Chris Burke, at Burke Brothers Removals, the family furniture removal business based in Wolverhampton. As well as general duties such as washing the vehicles, Sam really enjoyed getting behind the wheel when the vans or lorries needed to be moved around the yard. When, at the tender age of 13, Sam announced that he would have his own recovery business, Chris thought it was just a passing whim, but how wrong could he be.

Sam was determined and had it planned out. He avidly read the vehicle recovery magazines, and spent most evenings surfing the Internet, desperate to learn all he could about the recovery business. He knew he would need capital, so he started saving the income from weekend jobs. As the lorry park is close to Wolves football ground, Sam showed his entrepreneurial spirit by opening it as a car park for keen football fans on match days which proved very successful. Burke Bros were removals specialists so had no expertise in vehicle recovery. So when he was 14, Sam spent ten months working for a local recovery company learning the ropes and gaining the practical experience he would need to run his own recovery business.

The recovery vehicle supplied to Sam by recovery World.

Sam was only 15 when he decided to take the plunge. He knew he wanted a versatile vehicle, and he knew from his researches that Recovery World had one of the largest selections of recovery vehicles, so he contacted them. As a result, he invested his hard earned savings in a 7.5 tonne crew cab, tilt and slide truck with a spec lift, and a range of recovery accessories that would be essential for the job, which was delivered just one week before his 16th birthday.

Sam then embarked on a concerted campaign of cold calling to build a solid customer base – quite a challenge for one so young, but his determination and enthusiasm paid dividends. Twelve months later he has contracts with a dozen organisations including clubs, dealerships and body shops.

“But it’s not all been plain sailing.” said father Chris. “It was a minefield just setting up basic things like bank and trading accounts because of his age. Of course I’ve been totally behind Sam and given him encouragement and support, but I made it clear from the start, that we don’t carry ‘family’ passengers. He bought the truck himself with his own hard earned cash. Sam is covered under our Operator Licence but he runs it as a totally independent business, paying all his own bills and operating costs including rent and storage.”

As he can’t drive the vehicles yet, Sam uses Burke Bros Removals regular drivers, but they just do the driving. Sam’s the expert on vehicle recovery, so he not only goes out on every job, dealing with everything bar the driving, but he also runs the business side of things in the office.

Sam commented, “There were a few problems to start with, but I just love the work and am determined to make it succeed. There’s still loads to learn and the only way is to get out there and do it myself. I’m planning to buy another truck later this year, and pass my HGV Class 2 licence when I’m 18 so I can do the driving as well. I’m not trying to run before I can walk, but I want to build a solid, profitable company based on a reputation of good value and excellent customer service. I plan to grow the business steadily and achieve my long term ambition for Burke Bros Recovery to become the leading recovery firm in the West Midlands, if not the UK.”

Sam is living proof that age is no barrier to success, and it shows that if you have belief in yourself, determination and are prepared to put in the hard work, you will succeed.

A shining example or what? Post your comments on this story, especially if you know someone who can beat Sam’s record as the youngest-ever recovery entrepreneur?

The recovery vehicle supplied to Sam by recovery World.