Get to know Gilbert + Burke: A Conversation with Cathy Burke
Introduce yourself! Who are you and what do you do?
I am a part owner and Vice President/Chief Financial Officer with G+B, so I look after the finances and accounting. I also manage the Marketing efforts, and help out with interior design from time to time.
How long have you been with Gilbert + Burke?
I started working in the evenings with Randy Burke (my husband) in 2000, doing the books for his startup business. As the company grew, I took the leap into full-time work in 2004. Prior to that, I worked with a commercial construction contractor as Project Administrator/Bookkeeper. Originally I was trained as a Registered Nurse and worked in that field for 22 years.
Tell us about the early days of Gilbert + Burke?
Randy started with a tool belt and a truck, and hired his first employee in 2001. The early days were spent working out of our home, then out of our garage, finally moving into typical office space in 2006. Randy and I were the sole operating management team, having most of our discussions over morning coffee before he went out to work. I was estimator, bookkeeper, and administrator of all things. We incorporated in 2004 and grew quickly until the recession of 2008/09 hit. From 2005-2014, we also started and sold an electric division which specialized in solar installations. In 2014 the company re-branded and took on a new partner, Brian Gilbert. Shortly thereafter, we added our senior Designer Peter Groza. Steady growth has ensued since then. Randy has not been “on the tools” for some years now, keeping to sales and management tasks.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing in those early days, what would it be?
Success doesn’t have to happen as quickly as you think it will or as fast as you think it should. The quicker and faster you grow, the more challenges you will face! We told ourselves – never give up. Treat your customer honestly and with respect, as you would like to be treated, and create a beautiful product. This is still our mantra.
What do you love most about your job?
The creativity of either building a new space unique to our client’s dream, or remodelling an existing space to realize its potential. Seeing the satisfaction and joy on our client’s face as their vision takes shape.
What’s been the most rewarding project you’ve worked on recently?
A custom build summer home in Muskoka that incorporates many original finishes and personal touches. It is a unique blend of contemporary and rustic design, and the exterior lakeside living spaces are amazing. This project just won our local Home Builder’s Association Home Design Awards for Best Custom Home 2001-3500 SF, and Best Exterior Spaces.
Construction is a pretty male-dominated industry. What’s it like being a woman working in construction?
Yes, it is male-dominated. Before the trades get to know me, they are pretty open-mouthed at my depth of knowledge of construction methods and techniques. I certainly have faced a lack of respect from trade contractors in the past, but putting on work boots and a hard hat and complimenting their work always helps in that regard.
Cottages are undeniably great. What’s your favourite part about spending time at them?
At my own cottage, I like getting away from the demands of my work into a completely different space. Disconnecting from the phone and internet. Enjoying my kayak, and hiking the adjacent trails.
If you could build your dream cottage, where would it be and why?
I already have my own dream cabin: a simple retreat, off the grid, wood finished, solar powered, and wood-heated on a small river with an amazing view of the waterfalls. I love it because of the quiet, the unspoiled landscape, the lack of power boats, and the presence of wildlife.
Swimming or boating — what do you prefer?
I prefer kayaking and canoeing to boats with motors. I also love to swim, provided it’s hot out!
What are you looking forward to most this summer?
Spending lots of time in my garden at home — enjoying the flowers I will cultivate and harvesting/eating the vegetables in my raised vegetable beds. Spending lots of time at my cottage enjoying my family, my grandchildren, our friends, photography, reading, the river activities and the woods. Going on an annual family wilderness canoe camping trip with my kids and grandkids to Killarney Park.